The WTO praised Malis leadership on cotton issues

The WTO praised Mali's leadership on cotton issues

The Cotton-4 group of West African cotton-producing countries – Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and Mali – will need to reposition themselves in the markets of emerging cotton importers like Bangladesh and Vietnam if they are to grow their trade, the WTO has said. 

Speaking at the Cotton-4 ministerial meeting in Mali last week, World Trade Organization (WTO) director-general Roberto Azevedo praised Mali's leadership on cotton issues and the "significant and encouraging" achievements to date to help boost trade for the four countries. These have included the elimination of export subsidies, a more transparent trade review process, and duty-free access for cotton exports of cotton products from LDCs.

"The cotton issue has always been regarded as an indicator of the willingness of WTO members to complete negotiations and get results really focus on development, especially for LDCs," Azevedo said, but added: "We face a series of challenges."

Azevedo highlighted the need to improve productivity and adapt to market developments. 

"Now we are seeing a real change in the ranks of cotton importers since China imports continue to decline at a fairly dramatic pace. C-4 countries will therefore have to reposition themselves in the markets of emerging cotton importing countries that are, for example, Bangladesh and Vietnam."

Azevedo also highlighted the need to continue working to reform the global trading system so the four countries can compete "under fair conditions on international markets."

"The WTO has an important role to play. I think we have already achieved much – and I am confident that we can do more in the near future. Agricultural issues, including cotton, will occupy an important place in this discussion."

In July, Africa's cotton producing countries called for more to be done to address distortions to the continent's cotton trade caused by government support programmes.  

Speaking for the C4 countries, whose economies largely rely on cotton exports, Ambassador Thiam Diallo of Mali said the domestic support programmes of major producers were continuing to put downward pressure on global cotton prices, to the detriment of C4 farmers.

Africa cotton producers seek curbs on subsidies