A conversation with the Cotton-4 Coordinator Aya Thiam Diallo

11 November 2015

Aya Thiam Diallo is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Mali to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland and current coordinator of the C-4 group at the WTO.


[Bridges Africa] You have introduced a draft ministerial decision. What guided your thought process as you were writing it? Is your strategy different from the one adopted in Bali? How do you see the negotiation procedure on the road to Nairobi?

[Aya Thiam Diallo] Through their continuous efforts to seek a fair and equitable solution for all regarding the symbolic cotton issue at the WTO, the four countries that co-authored the sectoral initiative supporting African cotton (C-4) are making the most of every opportunity to help negotiations move forward. The C-4’s proposal in the draft decision introduced at the 10th Ministerial Conference falls within this framework.

Even though the context is not the same as in Bali, the C-4 will be keeping the same strategy for Nairobi, albeit obviously with new proposals on the negotiating table. The group would like to continue negotiations on the C-4’s proposal with all the partners and stakeholders involved on the cotton issue, with the hope of finding an acceptable agreement in the three pillars of agriculture.

Has this text already been discussed in the framework of agriculture negotiations? What was the result of these debates?

[ATD] The text was shared with all the interested parties. Discussions  and even negotiations  are ongoing to enrich the project with a view of achieving a consensual text before Nairobi.

In a situation where everyone is talking about lowering ambitions, what are you hoping to achieve?

[ATD] During the meeting of African trade ministers on 20 July, a call was made to lower the original ambitions, especially for agriculture, in order to break the deadlock on trade negotiations in the WTO. When it comes to cotton, let us not forget that the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Decision called for an “ambitious, specific and expeditious” treatment. The C-4 still follows this idea and is dedicated to reaching an ambitious, specific and quick solution.

According to a recent study, the 2014 US Farm Bill could strike a serious blow to cotton producers in the rest of the world. How does the C-4 intend to work towards a trade system and domestic policies that help cotton become a fairer, more effective and more sustainable industry? 

[ATD] The C-4 continues to believe that negotiation must be favoured, on the one hand to improve market access but also to substantially lower the causes of distortion on the international market. It is also negotiating to help African cotton producers significantly improve the production and productivity of African cotton while becoming more competitive.  

The results presented in the aforementioned study could constitute a ground on which countries impacted by the United States’ cotton policy initiate a dispute settlement action. Is the C-4 thinking of going down this path if no significant progress is made in Nairobi?

[ATD] Although we favour negotiations to reach a fair, equitable and sustainable solution to the African cotton issue, in the spirit of the 2005 Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Decision, the C-4 does not exclude any means that could be successful.

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