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WTO assistance to cotton producers touches almost $400mn
03
Jul '12
Development assistance since 2005 for cotton producers, mainly in Africa, is approaching $400 million, World Trade Organization (WTO) members heard on 29 June 2012, in a meeting where several members also said they were concerned about subsidies proposed in a new US Farm Bill.

The discussions took place in consultations held regularly since 2004 under a programme formally called the WTO “Director General’s Framework Mechanism on Cotton”. These meetings are separate from the negotiations on reforming cotton trade under the Doha Round agriculture negotiations, but both are mandated under the 1 August 2004 General Council decision in the Doha Round — and the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial conference.

The consultations’ main purpose is to exchange information on aid for cotton, but members are also briefed on the latest developments in the negotiations and the latest market conditions, and they comment on those and on related developments.

In this meeting, members heard that the total amounts spent on completed assistance for cotton since 2005 is $278m. Another $92m has been spent on on-going programmes worth a total of $310m in promised assistance.

A further $1.4bn has been spent on completed or continuing projects for agriculture and infrastructure in these cotton producing countries, with a total of $5bn committed.

The information is compiled in a document that is regularly updated, an “evolving table” now in its 13th version.

The meeting heard reports from donors, and from South-South development partners Brazil, India and China. Some described how the assistance is used to improve cotton production in Africa and elsewhere.

“South-South Cooperation has emerged as a key aspect of the implementation of the mandate on the development assistance aspects of cotton and our work in this forum,” concluded Deputy Director-General Harsha Vardhana Singh, who chaired the meeting.

“I can report to you that there is great interest with this dimension of our work. The significant contributions of Brazil, China and India as well as Pakistan, are acknowledged with appreciation.”

The countries receiving the aid welcomed it and described its value to them. But they also noted the gap between the assistance that has been committed and the aid actually delivered and called for more coordination and further improvements in sharing information.

The Secretariat proposed to address the request for further changes in the information it compiles in order to allow the quality of projects to be assessed as well as the quantity.

In this meeting, capital-based officials proponents of cotton trade reform (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) were present, exceptionally, thanks to financial support from China.

Trade negotiations

Meanwhile, the negotiations on cotton have seen little progress since the April 2011 “Easter Package” of latest drafts was compiled and circulated, the chairperson of the agriculture negotiations and cotton sub-committee reported.

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