19 November 2004 AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS: COTTON SUB-COMMITTEE
Sub-committee set up
WTO members on 19 November 2004 set up a body to
focus on cotton as a specific issue in the agriculture talks, as required
in the 1 August 2004 decision — sometimes called the “July Package” —
covering all the WTO negotiations.
The agreement to create a body to focus specifically on
cotton is WTO member governments’ latest response to proposals from four
African countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali — to tackle the
Following consultations on the details of how the Sub-Committee on Cotton
should operate, the formal meeting of the agriculture negotiations (the
“Special Session” of the Agriculture Committee) agreed on the new body’s
terms of reference, which draw on the
The sub-committee will be open to all WTO members and observer governments.
International organizations that are observers in the agriculture
negotiations will also be observers in the sub-committee. It will report
periodically to the agriculture negotiations body, which in turn reports to
the Trade Negotiations Committee, General Council and Ministerial
The July 2004 Package stipulates that cotton will be addressed “ambitiously,
expeditiously and specifically” within the agriculture negotiations. The
sub-committee is tasked to work on “all trade-distorting policies affecting
the sector”, in all three key areas of the agriculture talks — the “three
pillars of market access, domestic support, and export competition” — as
specified in the 2001 Doha Declaration, which launched the current
negotiations, and the “framework” text, which is part of the July 2004
Its work will take into account the need for “coherence between trade and
development aspects of the cotton issue”. This is a reference to the two
major components of the original proposal: trade, which is covered by the
negotiations on trade barriers, domestic support and export subsidies; and
development, which covers various aspects of helping the less developed
cotton producers face market conditions and other needs.
The cotton initiative was originally raised both in the General Council and
the agriculture negotiations by Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. It
describes the damage that the four believe has been caused to them by cotton
subsidies in richer countries, calls for the subsidies to be eliminated, and
for compensation to be paid to the four, while the subsidies are being paid
out, to cover economic losses caused by the subsidies.
The four first wrote to WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi on
30 April 2003, introducing a “Sectoral Initiative in Favour of Cotton”,
which was presented on 10 June 2003 to the Trade Negotiations Committee by
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré. The Agriculture Committee’s Special
Sessions (i.e. the negotiations) also discussed the proposal (document
TN/AG/GEN/4) on 1 and 18 July 2003.
The proposal is now a Cancún Ministerial Conference document,
WT/MIN(03)/W/2/Add.1. It seeks a decision in the Cancún Ministerial
Conference as an agenda item titled “Poverty Reduction: Sectoral Initiative
in Favour of Cotton — Joint Proposal by Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali”.
Members’ views differed as to whether this should be handled as a specific
question or whether it should come under the broader heading of agricultural
subsidies and domestic support. They also differed over the question of
In the main text (paragraph
1.b), members say they consider the cotton initiative to be important in
both of its two main points: the trade issues covered by the framework and
the development issues. The two are linked.
Development: Referring to the WTO Secretariat’s 23–24 March workshop
on cotton in Cotonou, Benin, and other activities, the main part of the text
instructs the Secretariat and the director-general to continue to work with
the development community and international organizations (World Bank, IMF,
FAO, International Trade Centre), and to report regularly to the General
Council. Members themselves, particularly developed countries, “should”
engage in similar work.
Trade: The annex (the “framework”,
paragraphs 4 and 5
) instructs the agriculture negotiations (the “Special Session” of the
Agriculture Committee) to ensure that the cotton issue is given
“appropriate” priority, and is independent of other sectoral initiatives. It
says that both the overall approach of the framework and the cotton
initiative itself are the basis for ensuring that the cotton issue is
handled ambitiously, quickly and specifically within the agriculture
Committee on Agriculture, Special Session: Establishment of the
Sub-Committee on Cotton
Terms of reference:
“Taking into account the need of coherence between trade and development
aspects of the cotton issue and in accordance with the agreement under
paragraph 1.b and paragraphs 4 and 5 of Annex A of the Decision adopted by
the General Council on 1 August 2004 (WT/L/579 refers) to address cotton
ambitiously, expeditiously, and specifically, within the agriculture
negotiations, to work on all trade-distorting policies affecting the sector
in all three pillars of market access, domestic support, and export
competition, as specified in the Doha text and the Framework text.”.
While recognizing the great importance of the work of this Sub-Committee
to particular Members, the Sub-Committee meetings shall be open to all WTO
Members and Observer Governments.
The Observer International Organizations of the Special Session of the
Committee on Agriculture shall have observer status in the Sub-Committee on
The rules of procedure of the Special Session of the Committee
Agriculture shall apply, mutatis, mutandis.
The Sub-Committee shall report periodically to the Special Session of
the Committee on Agriculture which in turn will report to the TNC, the
General Council and the next Ministerial Conference.