Office of the United States Trade Representative


U.S. Proposes Reforms for the International Coffee Organization

Washington, D.C. – The United States today proposed wide-ranging reforms to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) aimed at strengthening the ICO’s contributions to the world coffee economy.

These reforms are being proposed just one year after the United States rejoined the ICO, which is an intergovernmental body whose members account for more than 97 percent of world coffee production and 80 percent of coffee consumption. The United States was instrumental in creating the ICO in 1962, but left the organization in 1993.

The U.S. proposed reforms seek to create new roles for the ICO that can provide benefits to all stakeholders and guide the ICO away from its historic use of market interventions in the coffee sector.

"When the United States rejoined the ICO in 2005, we recognized the organization’s potential, but we also saw the need for change" said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. "We are seeking to build on the ICO’s strengths. We have proposed structural and functional reforms that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the ICO. The expiration of the current agreement in 2007 presents an opportunity for the members to take action in order to reform the organization so that it can make a real difference."

The U.S. proposed reforms were presented as broad themes and include: expanding the organization’s objectives to promote a comprehensive approach to sustainability, including environmental sustainability; streamlining the ICO’s structure and operations; expanding and enhancing the collection and dissemination of information relevant to coffee farmers, especially small producers; strengthening the contributions of the private sector; highlighting the importance and effectiveness of capacity building projects; assisting small producers in managing the consequences of unpredictable market conditions; and making the organization more accessible and attractive to civil society groups.


Coffee is the world’s second most-traded commodity, accounting for more than US$70 billion in retail sales each year, and is produced in more than 60 countries. Coffee provides a livelihood for some 25 million coffee farming families around the world. The United States is the largest coffee importer in the world, and coffee roasting and retailing is a significant sector of the U.S. economy.

The ICO currently collects and reports statistical information on the coffee sector, provides a forum for interaction among governments and private sector participants in the coffee sector, and advocates for the sector. The current agreement, the International Coffee Agreement (2001), marked an important departure away from market intervention mechanisms by the ICO, and the United States rejoined in 2005 to enhance efforts to reform the organization and create new relevant roles for the ICO .

A copy of the U.S. proposal is available on the USTR website by clicking here.


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item: 05/11/2006 | Proposals from the United States to Reform the International Coffee Organization