GENEVA - Ministers from a group of top farm exporting countries said Monday they were dismayed by the lack of progress in ending the stalemate in the Doha Round of negotiations for a global trade accord.
"We are disappointed with the limited progress in resolving or narrowing differences on the outstanding agriculture modalities," said the ministers from the Cairns Group of 19 agricultural exporting countries.
Modalities refer to broad formulas or approaches for tariff cuts, under the the Doha Round of negotiations for a global trade liberalisation pact which have largely foundered amid disagreements between developing and developed nations.
The concerns by the Cairns Group, which account for more than 25% of the world's agricultural exports, came as ministers from the WTO's 153 member states gathered in Geneva to discuss key trade issues for the first time in four years.
Doha talks are not officially on the agenda this time although officials say ministers remained focused on attempting to complete by 2010 the round that started in 2001 at the Qatari capital.
"We have a strong message -- conclude the Doha Round in 2010," reiterated Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said after chairing discussions of the Cairns Group.
The Cairns Group ministers said a "balanced" outcome to the Doha Round must include a major package of reforms to agricultural trade, which they felt "continues to be highly distorted."
"Such a package must substantially increase market access opportunities, substantially reduce trade-distorting domestic support and eliminate export subsidies in 2013," they said.
They said all agricultural producers would benefit from such an outcome, including low income producers in developing countries.
"Securing these results in agriculture will be critical to the development credentials of the Round," the ministers said.
The Cairns group comprises Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.