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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 00:57 GMT
US defends its cotton subsidies
US cotton farmer harvesting
The US is the world's second-largest producer of cotton
The US will reduce subsidies on its giant cotton industry, the deputy secretary of state has said - but only as long as the European Union does.

John Negroponte was defending ongonig subsidies on US cotton growers during a visit to Burkina Faso, in west Africa.

The country is Africa's leading cotton grower, although it produces just 6% of the amount of cotton the US does.

The region's small farmers complain that they must compete against highly mechanised, well-subsidised US rivals.

They say American subsidies also serve to depress prices on world markets.

Mr Negroponte met Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore after arriving from the Ivory Coast.

He defended his government's refusal to withdraw subsidies.

"We have clearly indicated that we are ready to reduce our farms subsidies on the condition that our European Union partners can equally make the same gesture so we can work together in this direction," he said, according to Reuters news agency.

He said the US had worked to promote cotton farming in Burkina Faso by providing aid funds to finance increased production and marketing.

"We have worked with certain parties, notably the farmers, to see how to arrange contacts with American operators to place Burkinabe cotton on the American market - particularly the very high quality cotton that you produce here," he added.

'Disappointed'

But critics accuse Washington of hypocrisy - of frequently demanding that other nations scrap protections for domestic industries under the banner of free trade, while only doing so on a selective basis itself.

The World Trade Organisation criticised Washington earlier this year, as it upheld a 2004 ruling in favour of Brazil, which had argued that US cotton subsidies were unfair.

The US said it had scrapped a number of payments and credits to farmers, but the WTO said they were insufficient to meet trade rules and it was "very disappointed".

During the tortuous six years of the Doha Round of trade talks, which now seem to be in deadlock, domestic opposition in the US to cuts in subsidies for cotton farmers has grown.

Lawmakers from the country's southern states have threatened to block any world trade deal that proposes major cuts to subsidies.

The US is the world's second producer of cotton after China, producing some 40% of cotton on world markets.



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