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US Offers to Drop Barriers on West Africa Cotton in Bid to Move Along WTO Talks


The United States says it is willing to drop all tariffs and quotas on West African cotton in a bid to move along the stalled World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman announced the move Thursday, a day after some African nations threatened not to back any consensus at the meeting if they did not get a commitment from rich, cotton-growing nations on ending subsidies.

"The United States is willing, under the duty-free, quota-free commitments we will make, to provide duty-free access to cotton from these West African countries," he said. "You heard it first here. That's the commitment that we're willing to make."

Talks have been deadlocked largely over the issue of subsidies and other support that rich countries give their farmers. Developing nations in Africa and Latin America complain these supports make it hard for their farmers to compete.

However, one diplomat from Benin said Thursday that the problem with cotton trade was not duties but rather U.S. farm subsidies, which make West African cotton uncompetitive.