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USA ICO Membership Sealed

It ain’t signed ‘til it’s signed. But it’s finally happened. In a recent press release, The National Coffee Association of USA, Inc. (NCA) applauded the State Department’s submission of formal accession papers with the United Nations to formalize U.S. membership in the International Coffee Organization (ICO). Following the announcement this past fall of the U.S. government’s intention to join the organization, and Congressional approval of funds for membership costs, formal submission of accession papers signal the final success of an intensive, 28-month effort driven by the NCA. The U.S. government had not been an ICO member since 1993.

“Today’s State Department action initiates a new chapter in international cooperation and collaboration for the U.S coffee industry,” said NCA president and c.e.o. Robert F. Nelson. “With the U.S. at the table, the world of coffee gets larger at the same time that it becomes more targeted and effective as a single, unified international industry that can foster sustainable production around the world.”

For over two years the NCA - along with many individual U.S. firms, producing countries representatives and the SCAA - worked extensively with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Trade Representatives Office, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, US AID, and other agencies and government officials, in order to present information on the benefits of U.S. ICO membership for the U.S. coffee industry, producing nations and the consumer.

The NCA argued that the ICO is a revamped, market-oriented entity that is substantially different than it has been in previous decades. Under the 2001 revision of the International Coffee Agreement, from which the ICO derives its mission, there are no economic mandates, such as quotas, price controls or market interventionist policies. NCA's support for renewed U.S. ICO membership hinged on the absence of such economic provisions.

When I asked Nelson, “How does U.S. membership help the global coffee industry?” he responded: “It puts the U.S. back on the world stage as an active member of the chief international coffee organization after more than a decade of conspicuous absence. As the world’s largest coffee consuming nation, the U.S. can contribute significant resources and perspective to the work of the ICO. With a seat at the table, the U.S. can engage its enormous market presence and consumer perspective to find lasting strategies to achieve sustainability throughout the coffee producing world.

“It can also play a positive role in helping set an agenda for the organization that will help producers become more competitive in the global marketplace - an agenda that will include market transparency, capacity building, diversification and other free-market approaches to current and future challenges.”

The coffee industry is a fragile one - so I truly hope this move on behalf of the U.S. government will help everyone involved with this precious commodity.

Jane McCabe
Editor & Co-Publisher

Tea & Coffee - February/March, 2005

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