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Address by H. E. Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States Meeting of Brussels- and Geneva-based ambassadors of ACP Cotton-producing Countries - Revitalizing mobilisation in favour of the cotton sector

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16 February 2011, ACP House, Brussels

Excellence Monsieur le Président du Groupe de travail ACP sur le coton à Bruxelles,
Excellence Monsieur le Coordonateur du Groupe Coton à Genève,

Excellences Mesdames et messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

Distingués participants,

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir aujourd'hui à Bruxelles, à la Maison ACP, et de pouvoir vous redire mon admiration pour la lutte que vous menez depuis huit années déjà pour le succès du dossier coton à l'OMC, dossier qui est devenu symbolique des enjeux que rencontrent les pays en développement, dans leur recherche d'un système commercial multilatéral plus juste et plus équilibrée.

Comme vous le savez, la situation du secteur coton dans nos pays reste encore difficile, en dépit de la remontée des cours du coton ces deux dernières années. Cette situation a amené beaucoup de producteurs à abandonner le secteur depuis quelques années, du fait de la baisse continuelle du prix qui leur est payé.

La situation du marché aujourd'hui ne doit pas nous faire perdre l'objectif de notre ambition qui est de permettre à nos producteurs de vivre de leur production dans le cadre des règles de l'OMC. C'est pourquoi il importe que les règles qui gouvernent le système commercial multilatéral soient respectées par toutes les parties prenantes et particulièrement par les pays développés.

Excellencies,

The Sectoral Initiative on Cotton launched in 2003 in WTO was a significant step for producers. You will agree with me that no one who cares about the welfare of poor farmers in developing countries – millions of rural the poor population -- were continuing to see their revenue severely reduced by the fall in cotton prices on the international market.

The economies of most of the Countries around the table today are heavily dependent on revenue earned from cotton exports. In undertaking strong actions designed to reverse the negative trend in the cotton sector, we are convinced that a concerted and efficient approach is the only to ensure success. It is against this backdrop that we hope that the ongoing negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda will generate fruitful results.

It is our hope that this meeting will generate a new momentum around our legitimate concerns, given the crucially important fact that the EU and the United States are planning to implement far-reaching reforms in their agricultural policies.

You would recall that in July 2004, following the agreement by producers to include cotton in the negotiations on agriculture, we dropped our immediate demand for a compensatory fund in favour of a support mechanism and an emergency fund. Unfortunately, it seems pretty clear that the results have so far been rather disappointing.

On my part, I would reiterate ACP Secretariat readiness to continue lending its support for a smooth implementation of any decisions that you may take here in Brussels.

Excellencies,
Distinguished participants

Irrespective of the hard realities of the emerging international trading regime, we remain cognisant of the necessary policy actions that must be taken at country and regional level. It goes without saying that we have to put in place measures to enhance the productivity of farmers, increasing the quality of product yield while expediting enhancements in the value addition process.

This will go a long way to boost export earnings while reducing vulnerability to price fluctuations. We also need to develop a more coherent policy environment that boosts business confidence in the farm sector. I am aware that some cotton exporting countries have already initiated the process even as others are reflecting on it and a good number are in the process of finalising their actions.

In any case, this is a process that must begin with real national and regional consultation among the different stakeholders that must draw on the experience of other countries and regions. I am, of course, only outlining some of the policy steps that you have already identified in the Plan of Action of the EU-Africa Cotton Partnership that was adopted in Paris in July 2004 and the Framework for action which resulted from the review of the Partnership in 2009. While we continue to seek real collaboration with our partners, we ought to move forward quickly with the implementation of credible strategies that deploy best practices financial and technical assistance availed by our cooperating partners.

On this note, I want to thank you for your kind attention and I wish you very fruitful deliberations.


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