West Africa issues global trade deal ultimatum

16 Mar 2011 15:07

by Nick Mathiason

The Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) including the cotton growing nations of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali yesterday issued an ultimatum to international superpowers.

UEMOA stated at a press conference in Brussels that if the European Union and the United States do not phase out and eliminate its trade distorting cotton subsidies, it will veto a World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade deal at a scheduled meeting this November.

This is a significant move that shows the determination of West Africa nations to demand justice within the global trading system.

The story was flagged up by the World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 last night which quoted Fairtrade cotton famers and our policy expert, Ed Butcher in Senegal. Click here to listen: it is about 36 minutes into the programme.

It is hard to think of a better example of trade injustice than the international cotton trading regime.

It is why the Fairtrade Foundation last November in our report, the Great Cotton Stitch-Up revealed that in the ten years since the Doha Development Round was launched – an agenda that is supposed to be pro-poor – the EU and the US doled out a staggering $31.45 BILLION to its cotton farmers.

The effect of this wall of subsidies is to lock into poverty West African cotton growing nations. They are unable to invest in decent infrastructure to help create a sustainable garment industry to facilitate economic opportunity.

The EU is now renegotiating its €60 billion Common Agricultural Policy through which it pays European farmers. At the end of the year, international trade ministers from 143 countries will meet at a WTO meeting to thrash out a new global trade agreement ten years after the Doha Trade Round was launched.

Thanks to UEMOA, it is now clear that cotton will be a make or break issue at this meeting.  For West Africa and Trade Justice supporters, this is an exciting, crucial phase with a lot to play for.

Image © Trevor Leighton

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