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WTO: 2005 NEWS ITEMS

22 March 2005
WTO COTTON SUB-COMMITTEE

Members start work, looking at farm talks and development aspects of cotton

The Cotton Sub-Committee heard updates on the agriculture talks and development aspects of cotton, getting down to substance after it swiftly adopted its work programme at its second meeting on 22 March 2005.

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NOTE:
THIS NEWS ITEM IS DESIGNED TO HELP THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WTO. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS’ POSITIONS. THE OFFICIAL RECORD IS IN THE MEETING’S MINUTES]

  

SEE ALSO:
> press releases
news archives
Supachai Panitchpakdi’s speeches 

> Cotton Sub-Committee
> Mandate (July-August 2004 framework, paragraph 1.b and Annex A paragraph 4)
> Background explanations in the agriculture negotiations backgrounder
 


Reports from the Secretariat on development aspects of cotton, and from the IMF, UNCTAD and EU on their development activities sparked a brief debate on how development assistance could best be used to help recipient countries adjust while also working on reducing trade distortions through the agriculture negotiations.
  

The work programme

This was approved swiftly, ending debates over some of the details and allowing the sub-committee to plunge into substance. The work programme essentially reflects the 1 August 2004 framework as it relates to cotton and agriculture.

  
Progress in the agriculture negotiations

One of the sub-committee’s tasks is to assess this. Chairperson Groser reported on progress in the talks, particularly as relevant to cotton. Amb.Groser also noted that the recent G-20 ministerial declaration also referred to cotton.

Benin, the African Group (Rwanda speaking), Paraguay, the least-developed countries (Zambia speaking), said that they looked forward to progress on substance. Several said the WTO’s credibility depends on a good outcome. The African Group said it would soon submit its own proposals.

  
Development aspects

For the WTO Secretariat, Mr Chiedu Osakwe, director of the DDA Special Duties Division, updated members on latest developments. He outlined latest activities of the OECD, EU, US and African Development Bank, reporting that the development track is on-going work that is working well, with significant further progress having been made since the WTO Director-General’s December 2004 report.

The IMF, UNCTAD and EU also reported on their activities. The EU went into some detail on programmes for the region, for cotton, and for individual countries.

Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Senegal noted that what the Africans were seeking was a fair market for their products so that they can “live from the products of our own hands”. They said agencies such as the World Bank had advocated privatisation, but without funding for adjustment and training “reform for reform’s sake” would yield nothing. “The manner of giving is more important than what is given,” Senegal said.

  
Chairperson’s conclusion

Ambassador Groser noted that both the EU and Benin gave priority to progressing on the trade front. He said it is “inconceivable” that there will be a result in the agriculture negotiations without serious reform in domestic support and cotton. Therefore ultimately the work in the sub-committee and in the agriculture negotiations will be brought together, he predicted, and development assistance will be needed to help countries adjust.

He also observed that the WTO’s role is to create “opportunities”, not “trade outcomes”, but countries sometimes need help to make use of the opportunities. The African proponents (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali) are not asking for preferences but for assistance to make use of the system, he said.

  
Next meeting

28 April 2005

  
Chairperson:

Amb.Tim Groser of New Zealand, who also chairs the agriculture negotiations.

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