Remarks by DG Azevêdo

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to welcome you all to the launch of this joint WTO–ITC Cotton Portal today. And I'd like to extend a particular welcome to the ministers of the Cotton 4: Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. Thank you for being here.

This event marks a very important achievement for the cotton community.

And it underlines how the WTO works as an organization – with members driving everything that we do.

Everyone has a seat at the table – and so everyone can bring to the forefront the issues that matter most to them.

It was in this spirit that we built momentum behind the cotton dossier at the WTO.

Cotton has become an important focus of the WTO negotiating agenda since the C4 sectoral initiative was launched in 2003. And the C4 countries remain the driving force behind this initiative.

Thanks to their tireless efforts this debate has grown and evolved. I pay tribute to their efforts – and particularly to Mali as the C4 coordinator. It's great to have Minister Abdel Karim Konaté in our line-up this afternoon.

Cotton has become a litmus test of WTO members' commitment to delivering development-oriented outcomes, especially in favour of LDCs.

And we have been able to take some significant steps.

At our ministerial conferences in Bali in 2013 – and even more so in Nairobi in 2015 – WTO members delivered a number of significant and encouraging outcomes for cotton.

These outcomes include:

  • the agreement to immediately eliminate export subsidies for cotton, and export measures with equivalent effect,
  • a specific transparency and monitoring process to examine the relevant trade-related developments for cotton through bi-annual dedicated discussions, and
  • a reaffirmation of the commitment to grant duty‑free quota‑free market access for LDC exports of cotton and cotton-related agricultural products.

This is all very positive. Today's launch is an important addition to our efforts in helping the cotton community achieve their development goals.

This new, dedicated Cotton Portal provides a single online entry point for all the cotton-specific information available in WTO and ITC databases.

It includes information on market access, trade statistics, country-specific contacts, as well as links to other relevant documents and webpages. It will contribute to improving the quality and accessibility of information related to cotton market access, easing the activities of cotton exporters, importers and investors everywhere. And it was designed to be as easy as possible to access and to navigate.

The initiative helps to deliver on the call from the C4 for improved and accessible market access information. And it helps to deliver on the Nairobi mandate on cotton. By gathering all the relevant information, it means that we can better monitor the implementation of the market access commitments made by members in Nairobi.

I want to thank all involved in making this initiative happen, especially the WTO's Agriculture and Commodities Division and our colleagues at the ITC.

Looking ahead, we need to ensure that cotton discussions at the WTO remain on a positive track.

At this Ministerial Conference, WTO members are discussing how to make progress in a number of areas, including on domestic support for cotton. While the gaps between members' positions suggest that we may not see significant progress here, I think we should seek to make as much progress as we can here, and lay the groundwork for further successes in the future.

We are moving in the right direction – so let's keep pushing forward.




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