NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES

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Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica), the Negotiating Group on Rules chair, likened the moment to a handoff of the baton in a relay race, saying that this stage of the negotiations requires careful attention and technique to get to the finish line.

The chair identified issues where he believed members were in general agreement, such as the scope and the nature of the measures to be covered. With respect to the proposed disciplines themselves, he noted the greatest degree of convergence in respect of subsidies contributing to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and those causing harm to overfished stocks, notwithstanding important technical and political hurdles to overcome in both areas.

Less convergence was apparent, the chair said, in respect of both technical aspects and effects of certain capacity- and effort-enhancing subsidies. He also noted that for other issues that form an integral part of the discussions, such as special and differential treatment provisions for developing and least-developed countries, the final shape of these provisions would emerge once there is more clarity on the nature and scope of the possible subsidies disciplines.

"It should be very clear to all of us that we will need to work very hard and with a great degree of pragmatism and flexibility to achieve an outcome in December, even in areas of greatest convergence at this point," the chair said.

The chair also drew attention to an informal "vertical" compilation text jointly put together by the members who had earlier submitted seven separate proposals on fisheries subsidies, to help facilitate negotiations. The members behind the seven textual proposals are New Zealand, Iceland and Pakistan; the European Union; Indonesia; the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Group of States; a Latin American group composed of Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay; the Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Group; and Norway.

These members said their document went beyond a pure compilation, as they had succeeded in some consolidation of their individual texts in certain areas. They indicated that they presented the document as a useful tool for the NGR's further work on fisheries subsidies, without prejudice to their respective individual proposals or positions.

Members at the meeting undertook a first reading of the document, in which a number of suggestions were made for insertions to the text. The chair expressed the hope that the text would become a living document of the NGR through the incorporation of these and future suggested amendments from members. 

The NGR will reconvene from 31 October to 3 November for a thorough reading of the document. The chair urged members to come prepared with specific instructions and drafting suggestions, particularly for bridging remaining gaps in the negotiations.  

The chair said that he sees this next cluster of meetings as crucial to making progress toward an outcome at the Ministerial Conference.

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