NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES

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The meetings were the first of six “clusters” of fish subsidy talks among capital-based negotiators scheduled during the run-up to MC12, with the aim of fulfilling the Ministerial Decision from the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference, and the mandate fixed under UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6. Both set a deadline of 2020 for disciplines eliminating subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment for developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs).

Canada introduced its new proposal for a prohibition on subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. The Canadian proposal has two parts: one with provisions for prohibiting subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity in the jurisdiction of the member where the fishing is taking place, as measured by certain indicators; and another prohibiting subsidies for fishing outside of the fisheries jurisdiction of a coastal member and outside the regulatory area of a relevant regional fisheries management organization or arrangement. 

WTO members also addressed a series of outstanding questions related to special and differential treatment for developing and LDC members, including possible transitional arrangements as well as technical assistance and capacity building. 

In the discussions, both the importance of quickly finding an approach to disciplining subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing, and to special and differential treatment provisions in the context of particular disciplines, were emphasized. The chair, Ambassador Santiago Wills (Colombia), noted that these issues will need more engagement from members.

Members also heard reports from facilitators assisting the chair on specific negotiating issues. The facilitators reported on their consultations with members with regard to proposed disciplines on subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing and overcapacity, and overfished stocks as well as matters related to institutional issues; definitions, scope, notifications and transparency; and dispute settlement, remedies and territoriality.

Noting that the facilitators have signalled their intention to conduct inter-sessional work between the next clusters, and recalling the call from heads of delegation last December to move to continuous negotiations mode, the chair said working in this continuous manner has started and will carry on up to Nur-Sultan in June.

Next meetings

The next cluster of fisheries subsidies meetings will take place in the week of 3-7 February.

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