Political and trade issues were on the minds of nearly 3,000 representatives of the U.S. cotton industry in New Orleans today as the 2005 round of Beltwide Cotton Conferences kicked off at the Sheraton and Marriott hotels.
National Cotton Council chairman Woody Anderson, a grower from Colorado City, Texas, sparked the general session with his comments that a Central American Free Trade Agreement is "essential" to the viability of the U.S. cotton and textile industries. He noted, however, NCC currently is opposed to CAFTA as it is being presented to Congress this session, but is diligently working to negotiate improved textile provisions in the proposal.
"We must also address the WTO decision in the Brazil dispute," Anderson notes, citing Brazilâ€™s WTO suit alleging U.S. farm program payments violate world trade rules and amount to illegal subsidies. "Very simply, the facts in this case, the economics and the existing WTO agreements do not support the dispute panelâ€™s primary decisions. The Council continues to work with U.S. attorneys involved in the case to pursue an aggressive appeal of the original panelâ€™s findings." The appeals process will take several more months, he says.
Anderson says the renewed WTO negotiations, known as the Doha Round, have resulted in an overall framework for agricultural policy building that he says has the flexibility to "maintain an effective farm program" in the U.S.
"Still," he says, "we have urged U.S. negotiators to ensure any domestic support reductions beyond the initial year move global subsidies toward harmonization and are not unfair to U.S. agriculture." Also, the Texas producer says NCC is urging strong support for a comprehensive agreement that involves all members of WTO and all commodities â€“ and does not single out the U.S. cotton program.
As always, China remains a "wild card" in the cotton industry and market, and Anderson says the NCC is involved in a number of activities related to China.
"China has become a very good market for our exports," he says, "but its unpredictability and its unwillingness to fully comply with all of its trade obligations requires the Council to make sure it complies with its WTO commitments." He adds the Council is working diligently to ensure textile safeguards are imposed against "surging China imports."
Week of Innovation and Application
The 2005 Beltwide Cotton Conferences involve all segments of the U.S. cotton industry and are organized under the banner of "Innovation and Application." In all, hundreds of research reports and company presentations on tools and inputs for U.S. cotton are available for members of the industry and press at the gathering.
Sessions run today through Saturday.