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Cotton producers seek Bali commitments, as aid levels for cotton stay healthy

Cotton producers seek Bali commitments, as aid levels for cotton stay healthy

Cotton producers seek Bali commitments, as aid levels for cotton stay healthy 

The chairperson of the agriculture negotiations told members on 30 October 2013 they will have to move fast if a text on cotton is to be agreed at the 3–6 December Bali Ministerial Conference, following the recent circulation of a proposal from four sub-Saharan cotton producers. 

“The [Cotton Four] proposal has arrived quite late in the preparatory process for the Bali meeting,” Ambassador John Adank of New Zealand said. “As a consequence, relevant members will have to engage very quickly in discussions to explore possible areas of convergence relating to what could be an outcome on cotton at the Bali Ministerial Conference.” He added that he would work with former Ambassador Steffen Smidt of Denmark — who chairs work on least developed countries in preparation for the Bali meeting — in order to start consultations as soon as possible. The four want a decision at the conference to allow cotton from least developed countries duty-free, quota-free market access into developed countries and at least some developing countries by 2015, to eliminate any remaining export subsidies for cotton in developed countries immediately. They are also asking for a decision by the end of 2014 on how to cut domestic support for cotton. On behalf of the Cotton 4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali), Chad said an interim agreement is needed in Bali, which would help lay down a clear programme for cotton within the agriculture negotiations in the long term. A number of members welcomed the proposal and noted that work should start immediately to find what can be achieved at the Bali ministerial conference. The agriculture negotiations’ chair and Chad were speaking in a consultation meeting on development assistance for cotton, often described as unique because it deals with a single commodity, and does so by looking at development, trade and other aspects. Although the official focus is on development assistance, the meeting also receives regular updates on the negotiations on cotton and on agriculture as a whole, and on market conditions. “The work of members and invited participants in this Director-General’s Consultative Framework Mechanism is a part of the contributions to the overall efforts to reinforce the development dimension of the rules-based multilateral trading system,” said Deputy Director-General David Shark, who chairs the meetings on behalf of Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, said the consultations among members and other invited participants contributes to efforts to strengthen development through an international trading system that is based on rules. He said Mr Azevêdo will continue to focus on cotton so that it can be a good example for cooperation in the WTO’s work on development. Members heard that development assistance for cotton has stayed at a good level overall, with more projects completed, and a rise in the proportion of the projects’ value that has been disbursed. In its latest presentation on the world cotton market the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) described the current situation and forecasts for world cotton production, with a focus on value chains and employment in the sector.

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Azevêdo continues intensive consultations as members head for the final stretch to Bali

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, on 18 November 2013, continued without a pause his intensive consultations over the weekend and the previous weeks on a Bali package consisting of agreements on trade facilitation, agriculture and development issues as members head for the final stretch to the WTO’s 9th Ministerial Conference on 3-6 December 2013.

DG Azevêdo is due to report to the final General Council meeting before Bali — on 21 November — on progress in his consultations.

WTO ambassadors resumed consultations on Section II of a draft agreement on trade facilitation. This section provides the basis for special and differential treatment and for technical assistance and capacity building needed for the implementation of the agreement.

In agriculture, members are focusing on proposals about reducing export subsidies and related policies known collectively as “export competition”, reducing the chances that the methods used to share out a particular type of quota among traders become trade barriers in their own right, on how to deal with developing countries’ food stockholding for food security when the purchases could distort trade, on adding a number of environmental and development services to the list of programmes considered not to distort trade and therefore allowed without limit, and on cotton produced by least-developed countries (LDCs).

On development, members have agreed proposals by LDCs on preferential rules of origin and on operationalization of the services waiver for them. Work continues on duty-free, quota free treatment for LDCs. Members are also consulting on a monitoring mechanism for special and differential treatment for developing countries under WTO agreements.

DG Azevêdo has stressed that the negotiations for a Bali package must be concluded in Geneva before the Ministerial Conference. He told the Trade Negotiations Committee on 12 November that “one of the clearest messages from my consultations with members is that Bali must not be a negotiating conference”.