Cairns Group – Definition

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Cairns Group Definition

The Cairns Group is an interest group that contains 19 countries that are into agricultural exporting. The Cairns Group was established in Australia in 1986 and its major objectives include agricultural trade reform, reduction of export subsidies on agricultural products and other agricultural issues.

This interest group consists of 19 agricultural exporting countries. They are;  Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Guatemala, Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Paraguay, Chile, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Pakistan, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, and Uruguay.

A Little More on What is the Cairns Group

Part of the objectives of the Cairns Group is to remove export subsidies and domestic support for agricultural products that distort trade. The group seeks to achieve a liberal trading between agricultural exporting countries that are its members. Agricultural products need a better access to the market, this is one of the advocacies of this group.

The Cairns Group work hand in hand with groups of developing nations that also address agricultural related matters, this group also seeks a position in multilateral trade dialogues at the World Trade Organization (WTO). There was a proposal by the Institute of Economic Affairs in 2018 that UK should be a part of the Cairns Group, despite that UK is not a stronghold when it comes to agricultural exports.

The Cairns Group was formed in Cairns, Australia in 1986. Its formation was as a result of the passionate effort of the Autralian government. Originally, 14 countries make up the membership. Before the Cairns Group was formed, some countries in SouthEast Asia were working in enhancing agricultural trade between countries through ASEAN.

Australia played a major role in the leadership of the Cairns Group, due to the dedication of Australia to drive trade liberalization as regards agricultural products, it spearheaded the formation of the Cairns group. This group geared trade liberalization of agricultural products even at the multilateral trade level.  The law that countries should liberalize their economies in the 1950s also contributed to the creation of the Cairns Group.

Uruguay Round

Uruguay round was a multilateral trade negotiations conducted within the confines of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Although, this attempt started in 1986, the dispute between the US and the European Union over agricultural subsidies delayed its conclusion. The Cairns group which was also created in 1986 was incorporated into the agenda of the Uruguay round and this had significant impact of trade agreements on agriculture. The Cairns group, Geneva and Switzerland also contributed to the conclusion of the Uruguay round in 1989. The Uruguay round was later concluded in 1993.

Continued Protectionism

Longstanding domestic debate on agricultural trade between nations in which neoliberal ideas had superseded and replaced protectionism spurred Australia’s commitment to trade liberalization which in turn birthed the Cairns Group. The Cairns group serves as a mechanism for advocating trade liberalization for agricultural products at the multilateral platform.

Continued protectionism is however opposed by members of the WTO that are keen on maintaining their grounds on agricultural protection. The EU,  South Korea, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States are part of the members.

A communique issued by the Cairns Group after its 2013 meeting addressed issues relating to import restrictions.

References for Cairns Group

Academic Research

  • Middle power leadership and coalition building: Australia, the Cairns Group, and the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, Higgott, R. A., & Cooper, A. F. (1990). International Organization, 44(4), 589-632. This paper discusses the efforts of the Cairns Group in Australia and the URTN (Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations) for building a coalition and middle power leadership. Robert Keohane posed a question after hegemony that the main debate among neorealist researchers of global political economy relates the manner, the state may or may not secure the cooperation in the international economic order. The 2nd question concerns the manner, the weaker states try to affect stronger ones. A conflation of these 2 questions can cause practitioners and scholars to pay special attention to the weak coalitions as vehicles for regime building and cooperation in the international political economy.
  • The struggle for trade liberalisation in agriculture: Australia and the Cairns Group in the Uruguay Round, Kenyon, D., & Lee, D. (2006). Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The GAIT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) became effective in 1948 in which the agricultural trade was not included. After World War II, European and American governments desired to protect their national agricultural production. The membership of the GAIT expanded and it included the developing nations where agricultural commodities were the major exporters. It became a reason of contention and then the authorities greatly politicized negotiations in the Uruguay Round (UR) trade negotiations from 1986 to 1994 that added trade and agricultural practices to norms of the GAIT. The authors emphasize the Cairn Group that is an electic association of fourteen countries.
  • The Cairns Group and the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations, Tyers, R. (1993). Australian Economic Review, 26(1), 49-60. The efficient agricultural-goods exporting countries formed the Cairn Group out of frustration for conducting global agricultural trade on which they had no effect as individual countries. Together they are important as producers of agricultural goods with more value added to this industry and its exports than the United States or the European Countries. Their cohesion has enabled them to have an extraordinary effect on the Uruguay Round conduct. This paper quantifies their combined interest in agricultural goods trade reform, investigates their contribution to the Uruguay Round and evaluates their interests in these reforms that possibly emerge from it.
  • Issues, interests and options of developing countries, Valdes, A., & McCalla, A. F. (1999). World Bank: Washington, DC. This article addresses the problems of developing nations related to the trade liberalization negotiations by WTO. These countries are a homogeneous group. They are different in several aspects. With trade liberalization, there may be gainers as well as losers in the countries. Same is the case with the developing countries. There will be some professionals who gain while some will lose. So, it is not a matter of developing or developed countries. Understanding this diversity is an important requirement for a useful debate on the results of certain liberalization types and for taking into consideration the possible measures of mitigation. The authors build a taxonomy of the developing nations and discuss the solutions in detail.
  • Liberalising OECD agricultural policies in the Uruguay Round: effects on trade and welfare, Tyers, R., & Anderson, K. (1988). Journal of Agricultural Economics, 39(2), 197-216. This paper uses a multi-commodity, stochastic, dynamic model of global food markets to examine the impacts of liberalizing agricultural strategies in industrial countries. The findings are that the liberalization effects in the Uruguay Round will be more than double to that of resulting from the same liberalization ten years before. This is due to the significant development in agricultural protection in the 1980s. Major parties benefiting from it are the consumers in Japan and consumers in WE (Western Europe) as well as the farmers of the developing nations. However, the cost to taxpayers is also intensely increasing in WE.
  • Feeding the empire: The pathologies of globalized agriculture, Friedmann, H. (2005). Socialist register, 41(41). This article argues that in the global system, food and agriculture have invisibly underpinned power and property relations. Today, they finally have become the main points of conflict in worldwide organizations. An aspect of wealth and power varying from the normal one, that focuses on the agricultural industry, may specify alternative ways in the current impasse of worldwide rule-making. The author explores the present, past and future of the agricultural sector. The findings are that the appreciation of habitats and livelihoods are an appropriate solution to the international agricultural dilemma which is the living necessity and base for all human societies, relations, healthy human bodies and earthly cycles of water, air, organisms and soil.
  • The Cairns Group Perspective, Tyers, R. (1994). In Agriculture in the Uruguay Round (pp. 88-109). Palgrave Macmillan, London. Though some countries leave incentives in the agricultural industry undistorted, there are several countries where the protection pattern does not support agriculture as a whole. Convention in the trade protection theory, presented by Hayami & Anderson in 1986 and modified in 1990 by Vousden, will cause to expect that the majority of agricultural exporting countries will join this group. The main modern exceptions are definitely the United States and the European Countries that protect exporting agricultural industries now. Apart from these exceptions, the predominant countries of agricultural exports are actually among those whose protection pattern does not support agriculture.
  • Developing countries and the WTO negotiations, Diaz-Bonilla, E., & Gulati, A. (2003). Trade Policies and Food Security, 2002-2003. For economic development, food protection and poverty alleviation, the dynamic agricultural industry is vital. Though basic agricultural activities are decreasing over time as a contribution to the economy, still they represent one 4th of the economic activities and sixty percent of total employment in developing nations of low-income. Basic and processed goods account for almost twenty percent of the merchandise trade of these countries. In addition, of the 1.2 billion persons living on 1 USD per day or less, almost seventy-five percent live and work in developing nations’ rural areas. The negotiations by WTO and Uruguay Round are better to some extent.
  • The Uruguay Round north-south grand bargain: Implications for future negotiations, Ostry, S. (2002). The political economy of international trade law, 285-300. Before the Uruguay Round (UR), developing nations negotiated primarily for getting unreciprocated accessories countries under OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development). Many of them have less number of analytical resources and enterprises to make trade policies but it does not matter because the emphasis of negotiations is for industrial goods on border barriers and agriculture was not included earlier. The real GATT model proved to be effective as the United States led the negotiations and the European Union managed the alliance. In the multilateral trading system, developing countries were totally ignored. So, the Uruguay Round was a good decision for future negotiations.
  • The elusive goal of agricultural trade reform, Anderson, K., & Morris, P. (1999). Cato J., 19, 385. This paper highlights the agricultural trade reforms and their elusive goal. The Uruguay Round (UR) Agreement on Agriculture showed a great achievement as the first time, it placed a comprehensive disciplines’ set on trade-distorting measures influencing agricultural goods. The negotiations cut and limit to in rs while identifying market access and export subsidies that national support measures also can distort trade. The UR Agreement attempted to resolve this problem and put loose bounds around the distorted trade. It changed the climate of agricultural policy-making in developing as well as advanced countries. However, it has not fully integrated agriculture in the multilateral trading framework.
  • Agriculture and the WTO into the 21st Century, Anderson, K. (1998). Bringing agricultural strategies into the GATT discipline mainstream was a superb achievement of the UR (Uruguay Round). It imposed tariffs to non-tariff impediments to agricultural imports and scheduled them for phased reductions and also reduced the export subsidies and farm production between 1995 to 2000. However, there is much more to do before the agricultural trade becomes a fully disciplined or free global trade in manufacturers. Agricultural exporting countries are also interested in making sure of fast industrialization spreading and a continuation anywhere particularly in densely populated Asia as it will farm products net imports of those developing countries.

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