Review of the West and Central African cotton dispute
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CTA. 2003. Review of the West and Central African cotton dispute. Agritrade, August 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52497
The latest edition of Trade Negotiations Insights (ICTSD/ODI/ECDPM) has...
The latest edition of Trade Negotiations Insights (ICTSD/ODI/ECDPM) has an article reviewing the West and Central Africa cotton dispute. The article notes that West and Central African cotton producers grow 5% of world production (991,000 tonnes), but that this accounts for 80% of exports in some cases. While the region has some of the lowest cost production in the world, the benefits of this competitive position are being undermined by the impact of agricultural support programmes for cotton producers in OECD countries. West and Central African governments are seeking ACP support for a declaration on cotton for submission to the WTO. Currently African cotton producers are seeking an extension of the special product' concept to cotton, given its importance to food security and rural development. This would involve extending the concept to include 'offensive interests of developing countries when the export of such products proves essential for agricultural development and the survival of rural populations in least developed countries'. It would also require special treatment so as to ensure equitable access to the world market. West and Central African countries are also seeking 'substantial, specific and swift reductions in the subsidies paid for the production and export of cotton', with, in a transitional period, financial compensation being paid to African producers adversely affected by OECD support to cotton producers. The paper looks in some detail at the link between the African cotton initiative and the Brazilian challenge to US cotton subsidies. The article notes that LDCs often experience difficulties in gaining access to WTO dispute-settlement measures since the dispute-settlement procedures are expensive and require a great deal of legal expertise. The article argues that the West and Central African cotton challenge in effect waives any request for a system of rules to be weighed in favour of developing countries through the application of special and differential treatment but instead focusses on securing equal treatment involving the strict application of market rules and the disqualification of trade-distorting measures. It argues that this cotton initiative offers 'sub-Saharan African countries the opportunity to test the WTO system on its most complex institutional aspects'. Comment: Spain and Greece are refusing to extend EU support to the African cotton initiative, while other EU member states are willing to support the initiative only under certain conditions, namely that: it is limited to cotton and does not affect other agricultural products; other countries join in the initiative; any request for the elimination of domestic support should not affect all forms of support but only the most trade distorting forms of support.