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WTO: 2005 NEWS ITEMS

28 September 2005
WTO COTTON SUB-COMMITTEE

Chair calls for cotton consultations as Hong Kong meeting looms

Intensive consultations on the trade aspects of the cotton initiative are needed if result is to be achieved by the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, the Cotton Sub-Committee’s new chairperson Crawford Falconer told members on 28 September 2005.

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
  

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


Ambassador Falconer said the consultations should take place before the sub-committee meets again. (The next meeting is currently set for 28 October, but in this busy period leading up to the Ministerial Conference, the schedule can be altered.)

He compared this with the series of meetings currently underway in the agriculture negotiations, where consultations alternate with meetings of the full membership and negotiators are “on call”, under a flexible timetable.
  

Trade issues back to top

The African countries (the African Group represented by Egypt, and Benin and Burkina Faso indvidually) and the least-developed countries (Zambia speaking) said the situation for cotton growers is worsening and complained about a lack of reaction from other members to the African Group’s April proposal (TN/AG/SCC/GEN/2, available here, summary here.

The EU said it has already made its “front loading” proposal twice in the sub-committee. (Front loading would mean acting quicker on those parts of an agriculture deal that would apply to cotton). The EU said it was repeating for the third time its proposal for immediate action on the first day that the new agriculture deal is implemented: tariffs and quotas on cotton products from all countries (not just the least-developed) would be eliminated; export subsidies on cotton would be eliminated; and domestic support would be substantially reduced (the EU said 65% of its support is going to be decoupled, i.e. paid as income support that is no longer linked to prices and production). The US said ambitious results in the agriculture negotiations as a whole would help produce ambitious results in cotton. It also indicated that is not in favour of setting up an emergency fund, called for in the African Group proposal.

  
Development issues back to top

The Secretariat shared the African countries’ assessment that cotton prices and average revenue per hectare continue to fall globally. It provided an update on various activities related to development assistance provided bilaterally by individual countries and multilaterally by international organizations, including “real progress” in contributions and concrete indications of further advances.

Some members questioned whether recent developments are “expressions of intent” rather than actual work on the ground. The EU said the cotton initiative has had a band wagon effect in Brussels and in member states for work on the development side. Benin and the EU both called for a more comprehensive report summarizing the situation on development since the initiative was launched two years ago, a proposal chairperson Falconer said would help clarify the situation.

  
The agriculture negotiations back to top

The Cotton Sub-Committee’s mandate includes following the main agriculture negotiations. Chairperson Falconer reported that members are clearly more active in the agriculture talks. Without going into specific details, he said the talks are going through a transition but they have not yet reached the needed “operational” level that will allow sufficient progress to be made for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.

  
Next meetings back to top

Tentatively: 28 October and 14 November

  
Chairperson: back to top

Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand, formally elected at this 28 September 2005 meeting, who also chairs the agriculture negotiations.

  
Some of the groups: back to top

See also agriculture negotiations backgrounder

PROPONENTS: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali

AFRICAN GROUP (41 countries): Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo (Democratic Republic), Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

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