Minister Decroix: Regarding now the cotton issue, we’re quite concerned by two elements, the first, once the principle of lifting of subsidies has been accepted, when will this principle be enforced?
The second item, can we have protection measures in order to support African cotton producers before this measure is implemented?
And a third element: try to make sure that substitution measures to subsidies taken by northern countries. We presented these three concerns and Ambassador Zoellick provided us with very interesting responses.
Later we talked about the MCA, the Millennium Challenge Account which is a very important program, very important initiative by the Bush administration in Senegal. It has about $700 million dollars dedicated to include [inaudible] mobility, the multifunctional platform in [inaudible], a suburb of Dakar and also the creation of development poles or areas throughout the nation, throughout the country. Ambassador Zoellick is highly committed in those very issues and we are ready, Senegal is ready, we have done what we had meant to do on our part. We are now waiting for American teams to come and validate such a problem so that we can kick off very quickly and implement.
And then we tackled the bilateral cooperation issue, and as Ambassador Zoellick mentioned, the United States of America and Senegal are neighbors; we are only separated by the Atlantic Ocean. And as a matter of principle it should be possible to have direct flights, direct connections between Senegal and the United States of America. And this will help us develop, to promote exchanges, not only commercial exchanges but also the movement of people as Ambassador Zoellick mentioned. We agreed on those very issues. We all agreed to review that issue in a positive spirit.
The visa issue for business people, the granting of visas to business people. We told Ambassador Zoellick that we understand the security concerns of the United States of America, but we also told him that it would be very interesting to try to experiment [with] a system of business visas. And then after a while, after six months or so try to assess, and if the experiment is positive we carry on with it and if it’s negative we just discontinue it.
So in a nutshell this is what we covered and of course we tried to convey to Ambassador Zoellick our full satisfaction--we’re not here dealing with diplomatic words--for the role that he played in order to solve the problem in Europe. He was not required to tour Africa, he didn’t have to do it. He did it because I have the feeling that he was quite sensitized by the discussions that had been quite frank in Geneva and that Ambassador Zoellick wanted to come to Africa and see the reality on the field and have some insights. So we would like to thank him once again for really having visited our country and we would like him to carry on with this commitment. And whatever position he might hold in the American administration, we want him really to remain helpful to Africa.
This is just the expression of the good relationship that exists between the United States of America and Senegal. The President of Senegal Wade has just left the United States yesterday then he’ll be going to France then he’ll be coming back. He met with President Bush and they talked about major issues including African issues and also international issues and would like those relations to remain as fruitful as they are. I think I summed up all the issues we covered and I would like now to cede the floor to Ambassador Zoellick. Thank you.
USTR Zoellick: Thank you very much Minister. Let me begin by thanking all of you for joining us today. As Minister Decroix mentioned, it’s a symbol of the close ties between our two countries that President Wade has just been in Washington meeting with my boss, President Bush. I had the honor of meeting President Wade during some of his earlier visits and I was very pleased that the Prime Minister and other members of the cabinet were gracious enough to host a dinner last night so I would have a chance to meet and talk with them informally. As Minister Decroix said, the origin of this trip was the discussions that I had with Minister Ngom the current Interior Minister then Commerce Minister, and others in West Africa, in Geneva this July at the discussions in the World Trade Organization about the Doha Development agenda, the global trade negotiations. I thought that it would be good to come to West Africa to see for myself the economic questions and issues. And so, the first purpose of my visit is to listen and to learn from my African counterparts, also some in the business sector about the development in trade issues that are important to them. I also wanted to try to deepen our dialog on development questions particularly where they relate to cotton. From this stop I will be going on to meetings in Benin and Mali before heading on to Namibia and Lesotho.
In particular, as the Minister mentioned, we had, I think, a useful discussion on the Doha agenda and how to move forward to the global negotiations including cotton. But I know that when the cotton question first came up, Senegal and other countries also expressed the importance of the development and aid aspects, so I’m pleased that we also have other important aspects of our relationship. One of the most significant is the Millennium Challenge Account, which the Minister mentioned, is an initiative that President Bush launched to try to focus aid on countries that have made special efforts in improving their democratic governance, in investing in their people and in economic reforms. We are proud that Senegal as well as Benin and Mali are among the first candidates. I, in addition to my trade post, serve on the board of that corporation. The day I get back I will be going to a board meeting. So I have the opportunity to bring back some fresh information from Senegal that I hope we can work together to try to reduce the impediments for growth through this targeted aid effort. We also talked about the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has opened free trade for some 92% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s products, but we haven’t yet been as successful in connecting Senegalese exports. So we want to try to look for ways to expand Senegal’s trade relationship with the U.S.
Coming back to cotton. I reported to the Minister that we wanted to make sure that our work was good. We have started to follow up on some of the commitments from this summer. One is to have a reciprocal visit by our Department of Agriculture, our private cotton sector, which is the National Cotton Council, some of our aid people, some of our universities, Tuskeegee University, which would complement the visit that a number of the West African countries made to the U.S. in July. We hope that will now take place in January to help strengthen ties between our respective agricultural sectors.
Second, I mentioned the efforts of our aid ministry to put some additional funds for West Africa in helping with the assessment of development programs.
Third, I mentioned that when the West African countries visited the United States in July, they asked specifically for some additional help on bio-technology and bio-safety protocols. We will be proceeding with another bio-technology conference in Mali. We will be working with our aid people to set up some bio safety workshops to help with the development of that sector.
Finally, last month, we followed through on one of the July commitments by setting up in Geneva, as part of the World Trade Organization, a sub-committee on cotton. And the Minister and I discussed ways that we can try to make progress on cotton along with other agricultural sectors. We talked about the importance of not only dealing with subsidies, but also dealing with what the trade profession calls market access, which are things like tariffs and quotas, because the United States, Senegal, other West African countries need to sell their cotton to other markets. Some of the biggest cotton users, the textiles, such as India, Pakistan and China, have high barriers to the sale of your cotton and our cotton. So we have a common interest in reducing those tariffs and quotas because it will improve the demand for cotton. Similarly, we talked about how to expand the demand for cotton textiles which will expand demand for cotton. In dealing with some of the subsidies in synthetic fibers so, the point that I wanted to make in particular to the Minister and his colleagues, is we know the sensitivity of the cotton issue and that there is always a worry for African countries in general that their issues will be lost in the broader negotiations. And I wanted to emphasize personally by being here that that is not what we want to have happen and that we want to work with Senegal and its neighbors to focus on this issue as part of a successful global round.
My only pause is, as the Minister said, he keeps suggesting I’m moving to some new job and I don’t know if he knows something that I don’t. [Laughter.] But in the meantime I will continue to try to work closely with him so that we can expand our trade ties.
I want to again thank all the people in the Senegal government who have been so helpful. I will say that I also am going to have some meetings with some of your export sector and see a trade fair so I can learn some more perspectives of the private sector which is very important in generating successful business and trade. I would just like to thank the Minister again and his colleagues and I closed our meeting by saying that I wanted him to come to Washington before too long so we could have a follow up conversation.
Minister Decroix: Thank you honorable Ambassador, these people have the floor. We have lots of obstacles, we are behind schedule, so it is better to collect all of the questions and then we will respond.
Question: You spoke about a bio-technology conference in Mali. Will it be on cotton issues or something more? You didn’t say when it will be? Thank you.
Question: Honorable Ambassador, I would combine with my colleague from French press agency, you talked about the application of bio-technologies in agriculture. At the same time you talked about trade. Can you give us more clarification regarding trading interests of poor countries such as Senegal? Do applications of bio-technology in agriculture, don’t you think it will be contradicted by economic interests and commercial interests of the United States of America?
Question: I would like to come back to the AGOA issue. I will take an example, recently, four days ago, there was a workshop on the problem of technical access to the American market within the AGOA agreement, but what the conclusion was that currently the American market has made a constraint. It doesn’t really facilitate entry into that market. I won’t enter into any detail, but the question is: what is to be done in order to facilitate those that will be benefiting from that agreement. What will you do in order to facilitate access to the American market because we have heard that really very few Senegalese traders are exporting using the AGOA agreement? Thank you.
Question: The Ambassador mentioned a while ago that regarding his possible departure from the trading position, and we need to know more about that. And in a different department, is he interested in joining the World Bank for example, or any other international institution?
Question: The honorable trade minister made proposals regarding the cotton issue, for example the substitution measures before the subsidies payments council. How do you define those substitution measures, and do you have a time frame for the application of such compensation measures?
Question: Ambassador Zoellick talked about MCA discussions and he said that you had a chat about that, in order to anticipate some problems. What are the problems that were mentioned? Thank you very much.
USTR Zoellick: Well, that’s a rich and long set of questions, but I’ll do the best I can. The conference in Mali on biotech is scheduled for May of next year. It is a response to the request of the countries as a follow-up measure from a prior conference that was in Burkina Faso. And it’s my understanding that it will focus most on cotton, but obviously we are interested in working with African countries in expanding other possibilities as well. And to connect this to the other question about biotech interests, I mentioned to the Minister that a year or two ago I was in South Africa, where I visited a research site and also talked to a farmer, who I recall because his name was Butheleizi, which many of you know is a famous name among the Zulu, and he was from KwaZulu Natal, and he had been able to triple his output, and one other aspect of this that was noticeable but perhaps not as understandable in the United States is that he said with his triple output he had also added additional wives. [Laughter.] But the point is that the possibilities for productivity here are quite considerable, and one reason why I think we have found interest in many developing countries—China, India, Africa—is the possibility of also dealing with insects and pests while increasing productivity. So we see no conflict, and in fact we see it as being of common interest.
On the question about textiles in AGOA. The exports from Sub-Saharan Africa in textiles have actually increased very considerably under AGOA. Through the third quarter of this year they were about 1.2 billion dollars which was about a 33% increase over the prior year’s numbers. And this is in part because the AGOA rules allow the products to come in without any tariffs, where we still have tariffs for other countries. Now the real challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa will be how to compete effectively with China, India and Pakistan when the 50-year-old system of textile quotas is removed at the end of this year. AGOA gives African countries an advantage because you don’t have to pay the tariff but other countries still will be very efficient producers. Now in response to your question about how to compete, I think it will be increasingly important for Africa to have integrated production so as to reduce the cost of the product, and I mentioned to the Minister when I’m in Mali I’ll be visiting a yarn factory, which is an interesting example of people in Mali benefiting from cotton production being transformed to yarn, and the yarn is then sent to Mauritius, which is sent to textiles. So it is important for Africa to develop the fabric production in addition to the apparel production to be able to compete. And under AGOA we actually extended the ability of African countries to get fabric from third countries—Asia, and elsewhere in Asia—but only for a couple of years because our African counterparts said it’s important to develop their own industry. So when I’m in Lesotho I’ll be visiting a denim plant because they’re producing the fabric that can be used all throughout Africa.
On the discussion about the Doha agenda and cotton, one of the issues that we struggled with between Cancun in late 2003 and Geneva was the recognition that to deal with the cotton issue we have to deal with it as part of a global trade package. The way the WTO works is not to take one item and negotiate it and then another item, because frankly you’d never reach a deal that way, because some people want to be more open in cotton, some want to be more closed, some want to be more open in soybeans or peanuts, some want to be open in goods and services, so you need to put together a package with trade offs. So the compromise that we arrived at was to give a special prominence to cotton and create a special subcommittee as part of the agricultural committee which we’ve now activated to give a focus to cotton. But, as I said to the Minister, I will be able to do more in cotton if the African countries help me move the overall negotiations forward quickly, and if we work together to reduce some of the tariff barriers to your cotton as well as to our cotton. So keep in mind: it’s not just a question of subsidies, it’s a question of whether people will buy our cotton. And going back to my point about textile production, the world expects that with the end of quotas some countries like India, China, Pakistan will be the biggest cotton textile producers by far. Well, it’s important for them to lower their barriers, and some of them have tariffs that are over 100%, and so that’s an area where Senegal, the United States, and other countries have a common interest. So the commitment to try to make substantial reductions in subsidies or even eliminate one category—export subsidies--needs to move forward as a package, and at the same time, as my visit here demonstrates, we realize that poor countries in West Africa want to have special attention to their interests.
Then finally there was a question about the Millennium Challenge Account. And on that, as both the Minister and I have discussed, this is a very exciting new prospect. Because people in the United States and many other developed countries have become more cautious of aid because frankly they’re worried it wasn’t well spent. So the Millennium Challenge Account has said, we will focus our aid on countries that, by objective criteria, by criteria set by the World Bank, Transparency International, and others, do well on governance, investing in their people, and economic freedom. And this process is still evolving, but Senegal was one of a relatively small group of countries that scored well on this and so now we’re trying to work with your government to negotiate this compact, which I certainly hope we can get done as soon as possible next year, so the money can start to flow and support the overall trade and development program.
And as for one of the questions about my future, I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. I’ve enjoyed this job, and one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed it is to work with colleagues like Minister Decroix because I think it’s an important aspect of how you can connect trade to your development policy. So I’m still trying to do it as best I can if you’ll permit me. [Laughter and applause.]
Minister Decroix: I thank you all. Ambassador Zoellick I wish you a wonderful trip to Africa, and a nice trip back to the United States of America. The meeting is over and thank you to the journalists who were able to be here.