The latest and probably last draft communiqué for next week's World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Hong Kong (13-18 December) includes the hopeful goal of setting overall targets for liberalising cotton production subsidies worldwide.

This has long been the determined ambition of west African states, who want developed world producers, especially the US, to stop subsidising their cotton industries, payments that depress world prices, impeding exports from low-wage developing countries.

Given that the WTO summit is supposed to further its Doha Development Round, designed to spread wealth worldwide, there will be intense pressure on summiteers to strike a deal on cotton.

The latest draft communiqué prioritises the issue, saying: "We reaffirm our commitment to ensure having an explicit decision on cotton on an 'early harvest' basis and we adopt the following modalities [...].]."

Modalities are the overall goals of the talks, and the square brackets in the communiqué have been left for trade ministers to fill at Hong Kong.

By Keith Nuthall.