Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Where’s the moral fibre?

October 19, 2004

Where’s the moral fibre?

International agency Oxfam is concerned that the United States is fighting on to protect its massive cotton subsidy programme, which is causing suffering to millions of poor African farmers.

The US announced today that it is appealing a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that declared the vast bulk of US cotton subsidies illegal.

In a new report released today, Oxfam details how US subsidies encourage overproduction and facilitate the dumping of excess cotton overseas, undermining the livelihoods of poor farmers in the developing world. The report, Finding the Moral Fibre: Reform Needed for Fair Cotton Trade, is being published as part of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign. It urges the US to reform its farm programmes and stop dumping.

“This latest move by the US confirms that there is an enormous gulf between the rhetoric and the reality when it comes to actually delivering on promises of reform,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “The case against US cotton dumping is overwhelming and the WTO ruling confirms that. The refusal of the US to accept the ruling flies in the face of their promises of ambitious reform of cotton subsidies. These promises were a crucial factor in clinching agreement to the Agriculture Framework at the WTO meeting in July.

“The attitude revealed by the US appeal in this case does not bode well for the Agriculture Framework as a whole,” added Coates. “The Framework kept the talks alive, but at the cost of creating a whole new set of loopholes which could be exploited by the US to keep its subsidy regime going. What confidence can cotton farmers in West Africa now have that the US will refrain from destroying their livelihoods by export dumping?”

In a case brought by Brazil and backed by other developing nations, a WTO panel found in September that $3.2 billion in US annual cotton subsidies and $1.6 billion in export credits (for cotton and other commodities) are illegal under WTO rules.

Oxfam estimates that US dumping created losses of almost US$400 million for poor cotton-producing African countries between 2001 and 2003. In Finding the Moral Fibre, Oxfam calls on the US to swiftly implement the WTO ruling and negotiate new rules that would stop dumping. Doing so would bring relief to the millions of farmers in poor countries dependent on cotton for their livelihood.

Some of the facts discussed in the report: The United States government regularly spends up to US$4 billion a year in subsidies to the cotton sector, a total that is more than the GDP of Benin, Burkina Faso and Chad. The US spends three times more money propping up its domestic cotton industry than it spends on aid to all Africa in a year.

Cotton is one of the most widely produced agricultural crops in the developing world. Ten million households in West Africa depend on cotton for their livelihoods. Cotton is produced at a net cost to the US, whose subsidies depress world cotton prices by 26 percent. This cripples poor African farmers, who cannot compete.

Over 75 percent of the world’s poorest people rely on farming as a living, making less than a dollar per day. Many of them are too poor to send their kids to school, buy basic medicines or put food on the table because the rules of farming and trade are rigged against them.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The New Pike River Agency (And The Air Strike Wing)

Much of the sympathy the public still feels for the families of the Pike River miners has been sustained by the sense that the previous government – let alone the mining company and the processes of receivership and litigation – has never dealt honestly, or fairly, with them.

Finally, yesterday’s announcement by the Ardern government that a new state agency will be set up to assess and plan the manned re-entry to the mine (on a set timetable) goes a long way to meeting the families’ remaining request: that they be enabled, if at all possible, to bury their loved ones. More>>


Foreign Affairs: Patrick Gower Interviews Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says discussions have already begun on how to bring climate change refugees into New Zealand under a Pacific seasonal employment plan... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Centre Right’s Love Of ‘Nanny State’

You’d almost think it was 2005 again. That was a time when the rugged individualists of the centre-right were being beset by government regulations on the nature of light-bulbs, the size of shower heads, the junk food available at school tuck shops and other such essentials... More>>

Speaking Of Transport: Public Engagement On Wellington Scenarios

“Our work on possible solutions for Wellington’s transport future is ongoing, but has progressed to the stage where we’re ready to share our ideas with the public and seek their feedback to help guide our next steps...” More>>


Parental Leave: National's Time-Sharing Change Fails

National has proposed a change to the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill that would allow both parents to take paid parental leave at the same time, if that is what suits them best. More>>


Train Free Thursday: Workers Strike To Defend Terms Of Employment

"They signed up to these conditions a year ago when they got the contract for Wellington's rail services. Now they're trying to increase profits by squeezing frontline workers." More>>


Seclusion: Ombudsman Emphasises Importance Of Monitoring

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero says that while there have been changes to the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 to prohibit the use of seclusion, the report is an important reminder of the importance of regular monitoring of schools. More>>





Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election