The WTO and FIFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) yesterday (27 September) that will see the two organisations explore opportunities to enhance the participation of the “Cotton Four” (C4) countries (Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and Mali) and other LDC cotton producers in global football apparel value chains.

The collaboration seeks to foster synergies in relation to the economic dimension of sport and empowerment, especially for least-developed countries (LDCs) and women.

Considering the WTO’s cotton programme, the collaboration will be based on exchanging of views on their respective activities and preparation and implementation of common strategies and projects in areas of shared interest.

Cotton is discussed at the WTO under two complementary tracks:

  • trade aspects, around the multilateral negotiations to address distorting subsidies and trade barriers for cotton; and
  • development assistance provided to cotton production and its value chain. These two tracks reflect the clear linkages and possible synergies between cotton trade and development assistance in a number of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) members, impacting millions of people worldwide.

“I’m really excited at the prospect of collaborating with FIFA to try to leverage the cotton sector in a positive way for poor developing countries such as the Cotton 4,” commented Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of WTO. “I’m really excited that collaboration with FIFA could help us pull these countries more into the global cotton value chain. I’m also thrilled at the prospect of working on gender empowerment. We have a big sports economy, and to the extent that we can pull this through trade to support women, this is a positive signal.”

On behalf of the C4 countries, as well as Côte d’Ivoire and all the African countries and LDCs that produce and export cotton, Ambassador Ahmad Makaila of the Republic of Chad welcomed the initiative undertaken in the framework of the collaboration between FIFA and the WTO.

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He further stated: “For the C4, signature of the agreement between the WTO and FIFA strengthens a common vision, an inclusive and lasting partnership and a choice to favour cooperation and negotiation at the WTO in the search for the most appropriate solutions to the cotton issue. This robust cooperation is more than ever indispensable to ensure that our countries bounce back from the many crises we are currently facing, undertake better reconstruction and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

As per the terms defined in the MoU, which stands valid until 31 December 2027, a joint annual assessment will be conducted to assess the collaboration and identify specific activities or projects to be implemented the following year. These activities and projects will be reflected in a Collaboration Plan.

“FIFA redistributes its revenue among our 211 member associations to help them develop football in their countries by notably investing in infrastructure, facilities, competitions, refereeing and coaching. Yet, we believe that there is still more that football can do, especially for the youth in the developing world,” the FIFA president Gianni Infantino was quoted as saying. “This important partnership can help us find ways of ensuring that football can further promote sustainable development for everyone to benefit from the global football economy.”