DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF

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Minister of Commerce of Burkina Faso, Mr. Harouna KABORE, coordinator of the C4. Ambassador Dieudonné Désiré Sougouri, colleagues and guests.

Bonjour à toutes et à tous.

First, I wish to offer Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton my warm congratulations on her appointment as Executive Director of ITC. I wish you Pamela all the success ahead, and I reiterate the WTO's commitment to continue to work closely with ITC on numerous initiatives, including, of course, on cotton and cotton-related trade projects.

Cotton is truly a global commodity, grown in over 75 countries across five continents.

Cotton is more than just a fibre used to make the clothes we wear. It is also a source of edible oil, animal feed and fuel.

Cotton and its products are processed, transformed and traded in most regions of the world.

In several least developed countries in particular, cotton is central to job creation and economic stability, and a central element of local culture.

In sum, cotton binds and brings the globe together in different ways.

The C4 — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali — initiated the cotton sectoral initiative at the WTO in 2004 with the aim of improving the global trade rules as they relate to cotton, and to shed light on the many linkages among trade, cotton and development.

The C4 also initiated the launch of World Cotton Day in 2019, following their proposition for a resolution to officially recognize the date before the United Nations General Assembly.

World Cotton Day aims at highlighting the numerous gains enabled by international trade in cotton, including expanding markets by selling to consumers abroad; increasing foreign exchange earnings; attracting investment in local businesses; creating jobs; and fostering growth and technology transfer in the wider economy.

For those to materialize, the WTO, ITC, UNCTAD, as well as the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC)  and other relevant international partners have a big role to play, as well as recognizing the major importance cotton production, trade and transformation can have for creating opportunities for women and youth through the extended cotton value chain.

At the WTO, we work to enable developing countries to benefit more from every step of the cotton value chain,  under two complementary tracks: First, trade-related aspects through the dedicated discussion on Cotton and the agriculture negotiations aimed at reducing trade distortions in the cotton sector, and second,  cotton-related development activities under the Director-General's Consultative Framework Mechanism on Cotton.

This work is undertaken in close cooperation with other international organizations as illustrated, for example, by the Cotton Portal initiative from the WTO and ITC launched in 2017, which gathers in a single website market intelligence tools, market access information, export opportunities, business contacts, and other relevant information for cotton producers and traders.

Another example of WTO work, with a very direct impact on cotton farmers, is the WTO-UNCTAD-ITC initiative to support the creation of parallel value chains from the by-products of cotton production and processing, called the “cotton by-products” initiative. Activities under this work programme — such as the preparation of national feasibility assessment studies — have been supported in their initial phases by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and constitute one key component of the Cotton Roadmap Project: and that is focussing on local value addition through the promotion of cotton by-product transformation.

This workstream started in early 2019 and has so far led to the production of country-specific feasibility analyses, containing novel data and information for potential investors, as well as discussions among WTO Members on a General Council Declaration in support of cotton by-products development, particularly in cotton-producing least-developed countries. 

The celebrations held today and tomorrow at the WTO to commemorate the first anniversary of World Cotton Day constitute an occasion to shine a spotlight on the sector’s importance to the livelihoods of millions of farmers, processors and traders around the world, particularly in Africa.

A lot has been done and a lot is underway but there is still much work to be done to level the playing field and provide similar opportunities to all cotton producers, especially in LDCs. And that’s what World Cotton Day, the 7th of October, is all about.

For the 2020 edition, the WTO will launch tomorrow a dedicated webpage that brings together contributions from ministers, ambassadors and heads of organizations on the importance of cotton, and the relevance of World Cotton Day to their respective countries and organizations. The WTO will also set up a stand in its headquarters to celebrate cotton, with the distribution of souvenirs and information on cotton to staff and delegates.

It is my hope that World Cotton Day will become the unmissable international event, le rendez-vous incontournable, to bring together the cotton, trade and development communities to continue their joint efforts towards the sustainable development of the cotton sector.

We are moving in the right direction — so let us keep pressing on.

Vive le coton! Merci à tous.

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