Chair outlines way forward for talks on fisheries subsidies

Date: March 1, 2017

Source & Author: World Trade Organization

At a 1 March meeting of the WTO’s Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR), the chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica), reported on his recent consultations with WTO members on certain substantive and procedural questions in the ongoing talks on global disciplines for fisheries subsidies.

The NGR agreed on several next steps in its process. The proponents for fisheries subsidies disciplines are seeking an agreed outcome at the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (Buenos Aires, December 2017), in line with Target 14.6 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Concerning the next steps, the chair outlined a programme beginning with a technical briefing session with representatives from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to address technical issues, including fisheries management. Following this, the chair will begin to hold focused sessions on specific substantive issues, and in tandem will continue to convene general NGR meetings dedicated to fisheries subsidies.

Issues to be addressed in the focused discussions will be similar to those addressed in the chair’s consultations: what sorts of fisheries subsidies should be ipso factoprohibited; what role, if any, RFMOs and/or fisheries management systems should have in any package of disciplines; how to define subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishing and what subsidy disciplines should apply to these activities; and how an agreement on fisheries subsidies could address future development needs of developing and least developed members.

Readout on consultations:

At the start of the meeting, the chair provided an extensive readout of his recent consultations with WTO members on advancing the fisheries subsidy negotiations. Overall, the chair said, he had detected a “great willingness to continue and deepen engagement” on the issue and was “heartened” by this.

Concerning prohibition, the chair reported that most delegations had specifically addressed the issue that subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing should be prohibited, with no exceptions, and many had suggested identifying the particular cases by relying on IUU vessel lists of RFMOs and national authorities. Some also had called for prohibiting subsidies in respect of already-overfished fisheries. How to objectively benchmark these sustainability considerations had been extensively discussed along with, more generally, the appropriate role in eventual disciplines of any further references to fisheries management.

A wide range of views also had been expressed on what should be considered subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishing, and whether and how subsidies to such activities should be treated in eventual disciplines, the chair said. He also reported that many had expressed views on how to provide for policy space for developing members to subsidize the development of their fisheries, without undercutting sustainability.

Discussion of these same questions continued during the meeting, including with a room document from Japan on fisheries management and RFMOs.

More information on the fisheries subsidy talks and the role of the NGR is available here.

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