In remarks delivered to a meeting of the NGR, the chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, said he had held recent consultations with 17 delegations and group representatives on priority areas for work. In those consultations, fisheries subsidies received the most attention and were identified as a key priority by many delegations with which he met.

The chair said almost all the delegations identifying fisheries subsidies as a priority referred to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their 2020 target for the elimination of certain fisheries subsidies, as a particularly critical area for action by the WTO at MC11. 

Ambassador McCook said a number of delegations outlined proposals on which they were working.  These identified disciplines focusing on subsidies in respect of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfished stocks, that contribute to overcapacity, and to a Trade Facilitation Agreement-like approach to phased adoption of disciplines.

Various approaches to special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries were described, the chair said, including geographic considerations and nature of fishing activity, scale of fishing activity, and transition rules for disciplines.

Ambassador McCook also noted a number of delegations mentioned the plurilateral initiative on fisheries subsidies that was launched in September. A number of delegations signalled their willingness to consider this approach while stating a preference for a multilateral outcome, he said, adding that all shared the view that any plurilateral work on this issue should complement rather than compete with multilateral work.


New proposal

The European Union later introduced its new proposal identifying the fisheries subsidies that should be eliminated or prevented from being granted in the future.  The proposal, which would prohibit subsidies linked to overcapacity and to illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, highlights the need for a multilateral outcome on fisheries subsidies at MC11, the need for special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries, and the importance of members notifying all kinds of subsidies that support, directly or indirectly, marine fishing activity.

Several delegations welcomed the proposal.  A range of questions were raised about the scope of the disciplines, including the issue of subsidies linked to overfished stocks and to overfishing, and regarding the breadth of the special and differential treatment proposed.


Other rules issues

The chair said another area identified in his recent consultations by a number of delegations is trade remedies, which include anti-dumping and countervailing measures. These delegations indicated their continuing interest in achieving outcomes in this area, with some stressing the need for balance between rules pillars (anti-dumping, subsidies/countervailing measures, and fisheries subsidies) in any eventual outcomes, he said. However, a number of delegations indicated that while their interest in this area remains, they do not consider the time to be ripe for work on trade remedies outcomes. One delegation indicated that it continues to seek outcomes on horizontal subsidies disciplines, the chair added.

The chair concluded by asking delegations to engage on all issues with open minds and a problem-solving attitude in order to reach substantive outcomes at MC11.  He indicated that he would convoke a dedicated session of the NGR in December to further discuss fisheries subsidies, including any papers received.

Further background on the WTO rules negotiations and previous news items on the talks are available here.

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