NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
NGR chair Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica) emphasized during the meeting that the time remaining before the Ministerial Conference is short, and that every hour must count in working from the multiple proposals on the table to an eventual single draft text. He also emphasized the member-driven nature of the process, encouraging the proponents to continue discussions among themselves and with other members in an effort to identify areas of convergence and to understand and try to bridge differences.
The matrix, which presents a side by side comparison of the proposals and was prepared at the collective request of the proponents, was circulated just before the WTO’s August break. Over the break, the chair had requested members, when reviewing the matrix, to consider how to build on similarities among the seven proposals and reflect on ways to address areas where there may be important gaps. He also had asked members to seek guidance from their capitals on national policy priorities in order to better specify their negotiating positions.
The focus of the discussion at this week’s meeting was the “General Provisions” section of the matrix, which included proposals for a preamble, definitions of terms, and scope of the agreement. The remaining sections of the matrix, which includes proposed subsidy prohibitions, will be discussed at the NGR’s next meeting scheduled for 26-29 September.
Members generally welcomed the circulation of the matrix. Many said that it was a useful tool for focusing attention on the convergences and divergences in the seven submissions from New Zealand, Iceland and Pakistan; the European Union; Indonesia; the African, Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group; Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay; the Least-developed Countries (LDC) Group; and Norway.
Some members emphasized the encouraging commonalities across the different proposals evident in the matrix, while others noted the wide gaps in members’ ambitions. A number of members pointed to the limited time left until MC 11. Proponents and other members considered that an agreement on fisheries subsidies would enable the WTO to help accomplish the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14.
In summing up, the chair noted considerable convergence in terms of limiting the scope of disciplines to subsidies to marine capture fisheries. Concerning certain other issues discussed, on subsidies meant for disaster relief and safety/environmental compliance, members differed on how much leeway should be given. Members also continued to debate possible exceptions for subsidies to small-scale fishing, and proposals for addressing certain geographical aspects of new disciplines.
“We’ve had a rich discussion of the general provisions of the matrix,” the chair said. “I believe proponents have much food for thought. We have a good basis for approaching the critical and crucial cluster of meetings on 26-29 September.”