U.S. cotton industry leaders have met with senior U.S. government officials to discuss serious financial losses accruing in all industry segments as a result of massive defaults on cotton export contracts.

Contracts worth nearly $1 billion, covering sales of more than 4 million bales, are either in default or are at risk of default with little sign of resolution, according to the National Cotton Council.

Representatives from the National Cotton Council, the American Cotton Shippers Association, AMCOT and the National Council of Textile Organizations met on Sept. 25-26 with USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Assistant Secretary of State William E. Craft, Jr.

The delegation explained that while the U.S. cotton industry has worked within an internationally recognized arbitration system, far too many foreign mills have refused to honor eventual awards. Worse, in many cases, the host governments appear to be protecting the foreign mills from enforcement of awards, a concern exacerbated in cases in which the mills themselves are state-owned.

The delegation urged the U.S. officials to pressure foreign government counterparts, emphasizing the crucial importance of contract sanctity as a cornerstone of international trade and warning that a failure to enforce contracts will disrupt international trading relations and undermine the support for future trade agreements.

The delegation also noted that other U.S. commodities, such as grains and oilseeds that are currently enjoying record prices, could be at similar risk in the future if the United States doesn’t take a strong stand in defense of contract sanctity.

The delegation suggested that U.S. officials use the leverage of trade preference discussions to impress on foreign government officials the importance of honoring contracts. They further suggested that if U.S. government agencies are sourcing products from suppliers in default that future purchases from those sources should be terminated.