“The UN resolution on World Cotton Day recognizes the importance of cotton for millions of people and acknowledges the work undertaken in the WTO since the launch of the cotton initiative in 2003. It is also a recognition of the excellent cooperative spirit between all the international, regional and national partners involved,” said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“The UN resolution should help catalyse progress in the WTO's work on cotton, including the ongoing trade negotiations and the other initiatives on cotton in the run-up to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference at the end of this year. I am convinced that these can deliver concrete positive results for millions of cotton producers, especially in least-developed countries. Celebrations marking 7 October can also foster sustainable trade policies for cotton and enable least-developed countries (LDCs) to benefit more from every step along the extensive cotton value chain,” she added.
On 30 August 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution (A/RES/75/318) recognizing 7 October as World Cotton Day, following a proposition by Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.
The resolution reaffirms the relevance of the sectoral cotton initiative launched in 2003 at the WTO “to improve market access opportunities for cotton and cotton-related products from least developed countries and to substantially reduce any trade-distorting effects of undue measures in international cotton trade and to intensify discussions on factors negatively impacting cotton trade and markets”. It also underlines the importance of development assistance programmes and efforts to improve cotton production capacity in developing countries.
The resolution should encourage donors and beneficiary countries to strengthen development assistance projects on cotton and foster new business opportunities by sparking collaboration between the private sector and investors in cotton-related industries. It should also help to promote technological advances, further research and development on cotton-related technologies and best practices.
Annual celebrations for World Cotton Day will provide a unique opportunity to recognize the historic importance of cotton as a global commodity grown in over 75 countries across five continents and to highlight its central role in job creation and maintaining economic stability, particularly in several LDCs. According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), the annual revenue from cotton is estimated at USD 41.2 billion, while cotton trade amounts to USD 18 billion every year.
World Cotton Day was launched at the WTO in 2019 in collaboration with the secretariats of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC).
Events and celebrations for World Cotton Day on 7 October shall:
- raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities involved in the production and commercialisation of cotton;
- support WTO members in their efforts to build more open, efficient, competitive, fair, predictable and resilient cotton international markets, including through WTO multilateral trade negotiations;
- support the development of sustainable and economically viable cotton sectors in vulnerable economies, particularly in Africa, including through technical assistance and development projects;
- ensure the support of governments and civil society in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by the cotton and textile industries in vulnerable economies in particular;
- provide information on the use of cotton fibre and cotton by-products such as oil and feedstuff; and
- contribute to the promotion of the social and environmental benefits of natural fibres produced sustainably.
Cotton at the WTO
At the WTO, cotton plays a significant role following a sectorial initiative launched by Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali (also known as the Cotton-4 or just C-4) in 2003. The initiative aims to make international trade in cotton fairer, and to shed light on the linkages between trade, cotton and development.
Discussions on cotton at the WTO focus on:
- achieving reforms needed to address trade-distorting subsidies and to provide improved market access for cotton and cotton-related products from LDCs; and
- monitoring and encouraging development assistance to the cotton sector in developing countries through cooperation projects and dissemination of information.