The recent WTO cotton ruling has led to a paradoxical result for the United States, a result that seems a textbook illustration of the "law of unintended consequences". Indeed, during the Uruguay Round negotiations of the present WTO agreements, the United States refused to put agricultural export credits in the category of agricultural export subsidies, where they would then have been subject only to reduction commitments. Paradoxically, the United States finds itself now in a position where these same agricultural export credits that it did not condescend to reduce during the Uruguay Round are openly considered as prohibited export subsidies. This article analyses and criticizes the tortuous legal path followed by the cotton panel before arriving at such a radical conclusion.


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