Daily Archives: June 7, 2010

The U.S./Brazil “Cotton Dispute”

There were recently some updates to the long-running “Cotton Dispute” – so long-running it even has its own Wikipedia page.

Here are some links dealing with the issue.

From a report on the Office of the United States Trade Representative website:

“The Cotton dispute is a long-running dispute brought by Brazil against the United States. In 2005 and again in 2008, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that certain U.S. agricultural subsidies are inconsistent with WTO commitments… On August 31, 2009, WTO arbitrators issued arbitration awards in this dispute…. The arbitrators … provided that Brazil could impose cross-sectoral countermeasures (i.e. countermeasures in sectors outside of trade in goods, specifically intellectual property and services)…Brazil had not made a final decision on which U.S. intellectual property rights might be affected by cross-sectoral countermeasures, but it had begun a process to make this determination.”

See also the view point about how cotton subsidies in general have affected developing countries, from the blog of the Law Office of Quentin D. Driskell, “Cotton Comes from Africa”.

“These cotton subsidies have had a devastating effect on cotton production in the developing world.  Cotton accounts for about 60% of crop revenue in four African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali) and is the primary export crop accounting for the majority of agricultural export earnings in each country. Burkina Faso earned 57% of its export revenue from cotton in 2002 while neighboring Benin earned 75%. Because the economies of many small countries depend on one, or just a few products, they are especially vulnerable to declines in commodity prices. The collapse of world cotton prices has fallen heavily on central and west African regions reliant on the crop for export earnings.”

The LexisNexis International & Foreign Law Community sounds concerned about the implications on IP in the U.S – see their item on the topic.

The Intellectual Property Bar has to take a stand on this invitation to destroy whole industries and deprive countless individuals of the honest benefit of their work. Whether that stand leads to modification or elimination of the imposition of cross-sector sanctions falling on IP is not ours alone to say. But, we do say that the work must be done now, and fast: the work of complying with WTO rulings where they involve Intellectual Property and the work of protecting Intellectual Property rights from being bargained away in disputes where Intellectual Property is not implicated.

Here is the link to the information on the WTO site and details of the process for countermeasures mentioned in the press write ups.