WTO: 2007 NEWS ITEMS
COTTON — SPECIAL HIGH-LEVEL SESSION
15-16 March 2007
Meeting shows need for result in cotton talks and more coherence on aid
While participants differ on some of the details, they agree that cotton needs a breakthrough in the Doha Round negotiations, and that more is needed to remove blockages on development assistance, Director-General Pascal Lamy said on 16 March 2007.
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
> Cotton, including the sub-committee
> Draft agriculture “modalities”, 2006
> Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration (section on cotton):
> Mandate (July-August 2004 framework, paragraph 1.b and Annex A paragraph 4)
> Background explanations in the agriculture negotiations backgrounder
He was speaking at the end of a
day-and-a-half “High Level Session” on cotton at the WTO in Geneva,
attended by ministers and senior officials from WTO members —
including African cotton producing countries and donor governments —
and international organizations.
The meeting came under the director-general’s mandate “to consult with the relevant international organizations … to direct effectively existing programmes and any additional resources towards development of the economies where cotton has vital importance”, under the 1 August 2004 framework agreement on Doha Round issues. Since then consultations have been held regularly, but this was the first organized specially at a higher level.
The meeting discussed: available data on development assistance given for cotton or to cotton-producing countries; recipients’ and donors’ assessments of the assistance; price trends and fluctuations and how to deal with them; the trade negotiations on cotton; and adjustments in cotton-producing countries.
One key task undertaken by the WTO Secretariat itself is a compilation of development assistance — the latest version is in document WT/L/670, which lists direct and indirect aid for cotton totalling $6.85bn.
Mr Lamy described this as a tool for examining aid for cotton under the mandate. Following comments from participants, he said a further revision of the way it is compiled and presented will be needed in order to make it more useful. In particular, he said, the paper needs to distinguish more clearly between:
what is directly and indirectly for cotton
funds that are available, that are actually being used, and that have been spent
projects and programmes introduced before and after 2004.
One of the problems discussed in the meeting is the mismatch between
funds that donors are making available, and the requests of the
recipient countries. Some African recipients said their needs were
not being met; some donors said the recipients were not submitting
enough suitable requests. Mr Lamy said participants have to dig
deeper to find out why the gap exists.
“There’s something wrong and there’s something we have to discover here,” he told the meeting.
Participants also heard a summary of the latest state of play in the agriculture negotiations and the Cotton Sub-Committee from New Zealand Ambassador Crawford Falconer, who chairs both.
“I can confidently say there will not be a Doha [Round] outcome unless we deliver on cotton,” he said. Delegates from all sides of the negotiation agreed with him.
Among the accounts of aid that countries are giving to the African cotton producers were statements from India, Brazil and China about the technical assistance they are offering. Mr Lamy highlighted this “South-South” assistance as a valuable development.
Mr Lamy acknowledged that members’ views differ on how much subsidies in rich countries affect cotton prices globally. Whatever their views, the outcome will depend on a breakthrough in the negotiations, he said.