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October 09, 2009

African states threaten Doha veto over cotton

Four African states threatened on October 8 to veto any accord in the Doha trade round that did not address their demands for a reduction of Western subsidies for cotton.

The negotiations on the product, a mainstay of several African economies, are seen as a touchstone of efforts to create a fairer global trading system in the Doha round, where agreement is sought in 2010.

"The negotiations on the Doha cycle are global negotiations and if even one country is not in agreement, there is no signing, there is no implementation of the accord," Mali Trade and Industry Minister Ahmadou Abdoulaye Diallo said. "So we are going to tell them that if they want us to sign the global accord, our interests, particularly regarding cotton, must be looked after," he said after a meeting with officials from Chad, Burkina Faso and Benin.

African countries want the United States to make bigger cuts in its cotton subsidies than in other agricultural products. They say that U.S. cotton subsidies make it uneconomic for their farmers to produce, and they cannot afford similar state aid.

"They (subsidies) undermine our sectors, which are suffering from it enormously. It is an injustice which must be put right," said Mamadou Sanou, trade minister for Burkina Faso.

U.S. officials have hinted that they will do something on cotton but say they cannot make an offer until they can see the overall deal in agriculture. More recently they have argued that China and India must also open their markets to U.S. cotton.


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