The Chinese government's plans to make China itself an outsourcer - to utilise cotton production in sub-Saharan Africa - have been strengthened by an agreement with the region's four leading producers: Benin, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso.
Announcing the programme at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Chinese commerce minister Chen Deming said it represented an "aid-for-trade" exchange inspired by the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.
China will provide machinery, materials and training programmes to these four impoverished west African countries, who lobby together on cotton issues as the 'C4'. The move will help the group combat hefty cotton subsidies adopted in wealthier producer countries such as the US, which have been a major hurdle in completing the WTO Doha round.
Chen stated greater trade ties could follow, with sections of the Chinese textiles manufacturing industry being relocated abroad. "In [the] longer term, we may relocate some of the textile and apparel industry into Africa," he said.