TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov09/07)
9 November 2009
Third World Network

Rules Group discusses fisheries subsidy issues in Chair's road-map
Published in SUNS #6806 dated 3 November 2009

Geneva, 2 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Negotiating Group on Rules discussed on 29-30 October questions in the Chair's road-map (TN/RL/W/236) on fisheries subsidies. These covered issues relating to fisheries management conditionalities for exceptions, transparency regarding notification obligations and dispute settlement.

According to trade officials, the Chair, Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay, concluded that the two-day discussion was useful to him in providing more clarity on the differences of views, and the reasons for these differences.

He said that the discussion, especially on fisheries management, would help participants consider how to bridge differences. This is the kind of exercise that will help the Group move forward.

The Chair said that the next meeting of the Group would be in the week of 7 December 2009, and that for 2010, he is planning to hold meetings in the weeks of 25 January and 22 February.

He encouraged participants to submit new proposals by the end of the year. The Chair said that he is also considering organizing an open-ended session on Rules that would include visiting senior officials. This would not be a problem-solving session but more to introduce senior officials to the Rules negotiations, the Chair said.

The two-day discussion was the culmination of a week-long meeting of the Group, which earlier in the week had focused on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidy issues.

Several countries made some general statements at the informal meeting of 29-30 October.

According to trade officials, the Solomon Islands' representative (who was in Geneva for "Geneva week" at the WTO, a programme for Members without representation in Geneva) stressed the importance of fisheries to the integration of Pacific Island members into the world trading system. She said fisheries account for 30% of their exports, and urged the Group to recognize the subsistence and small-scale nature of their fisheries.

Egypt, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that new disciplines should not cause an undue burden to African countries, and that special and differential treatment should not be tied to the establishment of a fisheries management system. According to trade officials, it said that African countries are not, and could not, be the main subsidisers in this sector.

Korea said that the Chair's text on fisheries subsidies tabled in 2007 was imbalanced in that it had a long list of prohibited subsidies and a limited number of exceptions. It informed Members that it will soon table a proposal to revise and re-balance this text.

It further said the fisheries management system should be the main pillar of the negotiations, and urged a large "amber box" and for fisheries subsidies to be prohibited only on scientific basis.

According to trade officials, Japan said that a recent Japanese scientific study concluded that under an effective fisheries management system, subsidies would not cause a negative impact on fish stocks. It said that WTO efforts in fisheries subsidies should be made complementary to efforts in the UN and international institutions.

The EU underlined the importance of encouraging effective fisheries management systems, adding that this is equal to eliminating fisheries subsidies.

The Chair clarified that under his original text on fisheries subsidies, all least developed countries would not be subject to any prohibition, and that subsistence fishing would not be subject to any conditionality regarding fisheries management system. +