NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES

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“Thanks to the surge in effort, we are now in a position where we have all the promised textual proposals delivered,” the chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica), said at the close of a cluster of informal meetings held on 13, 17 and 18 July.

At the 13 July meeting, revised submissions from the European Union and Indonesia were introduced, as was a new proposal from Norway. After that meeting, the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Group submitted new textual proposals, and a group of six Latin American countries submitted a revised text. The Latin American group is composed of Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay. All six of the new and revised proposals were discussed at the 17-18 July meeting. Along with a previously-discussed joint submission by New Zealand, Iceland and Pakistan, these make for a total of seven textual proposals on fisheries subsidies.

All seven proposals will be reflected in the compilation matrix which, the chair clarified, the proponents had asked him, with the help of the WTO Secretariat, to prepare on their behalf. He emphasized that this will not be a chair’s proposed text, but a simple compilation of members’ proposals with nothing added or subtracted. The chair said this document, with its side-by-side presentation of the various proposals, should help members as they prepare to consult with their capitals over the summer. The next cluster of meetings will be scheduled in September.

“We are now at the phase of our work where time is valuable,” the chair said. “Certainly when we come back, it will not be a time for generalities.”

A number of members reiterated calls – reflected in all of the proposals - for a fisheries subsidies agreement to be reached at the 11th Ministerial Conference, which will be held in December in Buenos Aires. Several members lauded, in particular, the timely inclusion of LDCs’ and ACP members’ interests in the text-based phase of the negotiations.

The chair, summarizing the meeting, said the discussions were “preliminary but useful”. In terms of prohibitions of subsidies that lead to overfishing and overcapacity, the chair said members are exploring various approaches to pinpoint such subsidies and needed to thresh out a solution.

On the issue of the geographic scope or how different parts of the seas and oceans would be covered by the disciplines, the chair said that interesting ideas have arisen and he encouraged members to continue to think these through. On another issue of scope, he remarked that there was a sense of “emerging clarity” that the agreement will be restricted to subsidies to maritime fishing and will exclude subsidies granted for aquaculture and inland fishing.

A further issue identified by the chair was what role, if any, certain determinations by national, regional, and international fishery management authorities should have in WTO rules. Special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs, he added, remains “a work in progress”.

The chair urged members to continue to check with their respective national fishery authorities. “It is incumbent on us to relate what we are discussing to the true realities of our own national policies and policy intents,” the chair said. “We are now in a true negotiating phase where each of us is an equal party with equal responsibility.”

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