Kirk said the WTO also must lead the way to examine the issues of vital importance to a “healthy global trading system.” These include establishing new market access, disciplining fisheries subsidies leading to stock depletion, food security, trade facilitation and regional trade agreements, he said.

He said members should celebrate the organization's “day-to-day work” through its standing committees and monitoring functions, as well as the contributions of the dispute settlement system and existing rules. He struck a similar tone during a Nov. 30 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in which he stressed that there is "more to the WTO than just Doha."

In a related development, USTR outlined a series of initiatives aimed at helping LDCs benefit more fully from global trade. In a statement, available at www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2011/december/united-states-announces-new-initiatives-boost-tra, the Office of the US Trade Representative said the administration would “work energetically” with Congress to enact legislation extending the “third-country fabric” provision under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to 2015.

The third-country fabric provision allows least-developed beneficiaries under AGOA to use fabric from outside the United States and Africa when assembling apparel for duty-free export to the United States. USTR said the United States also would take “important, new steps” to provide access for in-quota imports of upland cotton fiber from LDCs.

The United States also will extend an assistance program (West African Cotton Improvement Program) for the so-called “Cotton-4” (C-4) countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali upon the expiration of the existing program in April 2012.

In response to the USTR announcement the NCC issued a statement, available at www.cotton.org/news/releases/2011/wacip.cfm, that: 1) commended the Administration for its efforts to resolve cotton trade issues, 2) recommended that the U.S. cotton industry financially support and engage in a more structured exchange between U.S. and West African industry leaders, 3) urged other major cotton producing countries to follow the NCC’s lead and offer the same duty free access to the LDCs, and 4) urged major cotton producing countries to promote an open and transparent system for global cotton fiber trade, by collectively removing distortions from the cotton fiber market — which have been particularly disruptive to growers in LDCs.

China also announced it would be offering $20 million worth of technical and financial assistance to four West African nations to help their cotton growers.

At a press conference in Geneva to announce the initiative, China's trade minister, Chen Deming, said the assistance to Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali would be provided over a three-year period, with the possibility of renewal.

The effort will include transferring technology; providing technical assistance for research into plant varieties and seed; supplying cotton plant varieties suitable to growers in West Africa; supplying agricultural machinery, fertilizer, and seed; and financing educational programs of benefit to cotton growers.