Geneva, Switzerland – United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Trade Ministers and WTO Ambassadors from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali – the “Cotton Four” or “C-4” countries – held a meeting Friday on the margins of the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss cotton issues, including new initiatives announced by the United States. Attending the meeting were Ms. Madina Sephou, Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Small and Medium Enterprises for Benin; Mr. Mahamat Allahou Taher, Minister of Commerce and Industry for Chad; and WTO Ambassadors from Burkina Faso and Mali.
The new U.S. proposals to help boost trade for least developed country (LDC) Members of the WTO, particularly African cotton-producing countries, include expansion of duty-free-quota-free treatment for upland cotton grown in LDCs; multi-year renewal of the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP), a successful technical assistance program for West African cotton producing countries; and additional help for countries seeking to make maximum use of existing U.S. trade preference programs such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Speaking on behalf of the C-4 group, Chadian Minister Allahou Taher thanked the United States for support already given to the African cotton sector through WACIP and AGOA, and for the new initiatives, saying that once implemented, they will have a very important impact on African farmers.
More information about the new U.S. initiatives, as well as existing cotton and other programs, is online at http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/fact-sheets/2011/new-us-initiatives-boost-trade-and-investment-opportunities-l.
During the meeting, Ambassador Kirk and C-4 officials reaffirmed their mutual commitment to working for positive outcomes on cotton at the WTO, and noted recent successful collaboration on cotton language in the consensus statement to be issued at this week’s Ministerial Conference. Ambassador Kirk said, “The new cotton initiatives announced by the United States this week are part of the Obama Administration’s broad and steadfast commitment to work with the C-4 and other least developed countries to boost their economic growth and development. We look forward to further coordination in Geneva, in Washington, and in all of the C-4 capitals as these new initiatives are implemented.”
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