The meeting was a continuation of the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) cooperative efforts, initiated in early 2004, that are engaging in outreach activities with the cotton producing countries of West and Central Africa to facilitate communication and a deeper understanding on matters of mutual interest.
“I know there are areas where you disagree with our farm policy, but I sincerely believe we have many areas of common interest,” NCC Chairman Chuck Coley told a special delegation of West and Central African ministers, ambassadors and distinguished officials at a NCC-hosted special event on June 19. The officials represented Benin, Burkina Faso and Chad.
“I think we agree that promoting the increased consumption of cotton by the world’s consumers is our top priority,” said Coley, a Georgia cotton producer and ginner. He said that U.S. cotton farmers have contributed substantial financial support to promotion programs designed “to ensure that cotton is competitive in all end use markets and is the first choice of consumers.”
He pointed to the extensive research and promotion program supported by U.S. cotton producers since 1960, including the consumer promotion program in the U.S. known as “The Fabric of Your Life,” which has been documented as having successfully maintained and enhanced consumption of cotton and cotton products in the United States. Producer check-off dollars also have been used to conduct highly successful generic cotton promotion programs throughout the world.
Coley said the industry is proud of the outreach program initiated by the U.S. industry that served as the predecessor and basis for the West African Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP).
“In recent months, we have strongly encouraged the U.S. government to provide funding so WACIP could continue,” Coley said. “Now we want to work with you and your farmers to identify ways to improve the program to ensure it yields the maximum possible benefits for your farmers and industries. We need feedback to know which activities have generated the best results and what programs should be initiated in the future.”
Coley said the NCC supports the extension of duty-free, quota-free access to U.S. markets for raw upland cotton produced in the countries designated as least developed by the United Nations.
“We support the commitment made by U.S. officials last year at the WTO ministerial,” he stated. Coley said the NCC has conveyed its support for prompt enactment of legislation to extend the eligibility of products containing third-party fabrics before it expires later this year recognizing its importance to employment in Africa. He also said the NCC shares concerns that extending duty-free, quota-free access to textile products from Vietnam and Bangladesh could seriously erode the benefits of AGOA for the African countries.
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