NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
There are encouraging signs of movement towards convergence in some areas of the negotiations but there also remains a tremendous need for focused work ahead of MC11, NGR chair Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica) said at the close of the line-by-line topical discussions based on the matrix which were held on 11-12 September, 27-29 September and 6 October.
After holding discussions on the “General Provisions” section of the matrix, members tackled the topics of subsidy prohibitions, a “standstill” provision against new or extended subsidies, special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed country (LDC) members, technical assistance and capacity building, and transparency. Members also discussed transitional provisions and institutional arrangements such as the implementation deadline and a periodic review.
On the issue of prohibitions for subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the chair said there remains a question on which reference points to use for determining IUU violations.
On the issue of prohibiting subsidies that harm overfished stocks, the chair said the question of how to assess stocks in the first place requires further reflection. Members also continue to debate whether to determine a violation has occurred by using a “negative effects test”, and whether new rules should incorporate negotiated lists of types of subsidies that would be deemed harmful or benign.
On prohibitions of subsidies that lead to overcapacity, the chair said more engagement was needed as members have determined that it was hard to estimate appropriate levels of fishing capacity.
The discussion of a proposed “standstill” provision was preliminary, with a more comprehensive discussion expected after members have more certainty on subsidy prohibitions and other disciplines.
As for special and differential treatment, members debated on what and how much flexibility to grant developing and LDC members such as exceptions from the subsidy prohibitions and longer implementation periods. Members also discussed what conditions, if any, these members have to meet to qualify for flexibilities.
On technical assistance and capacity building, members discussed what types of assistance could be provided to developing and LDC members and debated whether developed countries should be obliged to provide such assistance. The chair called on members to view technical assistance and capacity building as enablers to achieving an agreement in limiting fisheries subsidies.
Members also tackled the issue of transparency obligations to notify fisheries subsidies to the WTO. Members debated whether notification commitments should go beyond existing ones under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and whether provision of certain types of information obligations should be mandatory or voluntary.
Members behind the proposals said at the meeting that they were working together to produce a single text that reflects both the convergences and divergences in the different proposals. The chair said he hoped to share such a text at the next NGR meeting on 12-13 October for members to consider.
The chair will also be providing an assessment of the issues that had emerged from the discussions based on the matrix and will outline suggestions for next steps.