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Proposal urges expansion of market for Xinjiang cotton

By Yao Yuxin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-08 07:34
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Farmers operate large cotton pickers to harvest cotton at a farm in Korla, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in October. LI XIANG/XINHUA

To expand the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's international market and offset the effects of US sanctions against its cotton industry, a national political adviser from Xinjiang has proposed the establishment of a common cotton market under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization framework.

Liang Yong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee and director of the office of Xinjiang's cotton industry development leading group, said at the ongoing two sessions that Xinjiang cotton, loved by consumers at home and abroad alike for its high quality, has played an increasingly important role in promoting the economic growth of the region and providing jobs for people of all ethnic groups.

But since 2020, the Chinese cotton, textile and apparel industry has been facing big challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions and global inflation. Amid all this, in June 2022, the United States passed a law blacklisting Xinjiang cotton, claiming it was produced and processed using forced labor, which inflicted considerable damage on the Chinese cotton industry and the broader textile and garment sector.

In light of these challenges, Liang suggested that China leverage the SCO's role to advance cooperation on Xinjiang cotton among SCO member states. In its 23 years of existence, the SCO has expanded its sphere of influence. It now has nine members, three observer countries and 14 dialogue partners, which are spread across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its member states account for more than a quarter of the world's land and nearly half its population, and comprise about 20 percent of the global economy.

Cotton, textiles and garments are among the most vital commodities traded by SCO member states, Liang said. Xinjiang, along with India, Pakistan and the five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — account for nearly 60 percent of global cotton output.

Liang added that with the Belt and Road Initiative deepening cooperation among countries, collaboration in cotton and textiles between China and the other SCO member states can be fortified. In this regard, the establishment of an "SCO common cotton market is of strategic importance", he said.

Liang said his proposal aims to reduce the world's reliance on US and Australian cotton, offset the effects of US sanctions on Xinjiang cotton, and expand Xinjiang's cotton market. It will also allow other SCO members to share China's advanced cotton producing and processing technologies, strengthening the global standing of China's cotton sector.

It will also help leverage Xinjiang's trade hubs to enhance regional integration and boost the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, fostering deeper industrial and trade collaboration among SCO countries.

Xinjiang produced 5.11 million metric tons of cotton last year, accounting for over 90 percent of China's total cotton output and about a fifth of global output, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Xinjiang's cotton industry has adopted mechanization, digitalization and intelligent technologies, Liang said, raising the mechanized cotton harvesting rate from 21 percent in 2014 to 89 percent last year. And Xinjiang cotton's fiber length, softness and durability rank among the world's best.

"The potential for cooperation is immense," Liang said.



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