TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec09/13)
17 December 2009
Third World Network

Rules Group concludes discussion on fisheries roadmap
Published in SUNS #6834 dated 14 December 2009

Geneva, 11 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Negotiating Group on Rules concluded this week its examination of the Chair's road-map on fisheries subsidies, with the discussions focusing on the issues of implementation of new disciplines and the transition period for implementing the new disciplines.

At an informal meeting of the Group on 10 December, developing countries, on the issue of implementation, highlighted the need for more technical assistance and capacity-building, in particular, on establishing fisheries management systems.

According to trade officials, Tonga and El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the group of small, vulnerable economies (SVEs), proposed the establishment of a sub-committee in the WTO Subsidies Committee that would deal with questions involving technical assistance in fisheries.

On the issue of transition period, trade officials said that there was widespread agreement that developing countries should be given a longer transition period to implement the new agreement.

Chairman Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay said that the discussion on the road-map had been time well spent, as it had illuminated the positions of various members, and had also given him new insights.

The Group also discussed a new proposal from Korea (TN/RL/W/245), which called for a new Amber Box that would allow subsidies such as those on fuel cost and price support, if they are not proven to clearly cause over-fishing.

According to the Korean proposal, subsidies other than those falling under the Red Box (subsidies to be prohibited ex ante without a further overcapacity/over-fishing tests) shall be proscribed only if they are determined to be causing overcapacity and over-fishing.

Here, an overcapacity and over-fishing test is required as a first step, in line with the general discipline of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement on actionable subsidies. The subsidies should be proscribed only when scientific and objective examinations on the effects of the challenged fisheries subsidies demonstrate that the subsidies in question result in overcapacity and over-fishing, said Korea.

For instance, it added, a proposed regulation of subsidies conferred on operating costs, including fuel, warrants more detailed and comprehensive discussions among Members. It can be agreed that fuel subsidy has the potential, but not the certainty, to lead to overcapacity and over-fishing.

The Korean proposal said that at the same time, however, it may also be true that categorical prohibition of fuel subsidy in its entirety, simple as it may be, would cause substantially negative impact on the livelihood of the Members' fishing households that have been traditionally dependent upon such measures.

Any proposed regulation on the fuel subsidy, therefore, should be tailored down to address these conflicting interests. In this context, regulation of the fuel subsidies could also be based on an objective and scientific assessment of the alleged overcapacity and over-fishing arising from the subsidy granting measure, it added.

It further said that recognizing the relatively higher potential of the adverse effects of certain subsidies, it may be suggested that these subsidies create a re-buttable presumption of causing overcapacity and over-fishing, unless demonstrated otherwise. An example of a subsidy falling under this category would be a subsidy for the price support.

Korea underlined that in situations where a fisheries management system has been established by a Member or Members, overcapacity and over-fishing may be considered as not being present if the system could effectively reduce or negate any potentially adverse effects of the subsidy on fish stocks.

According to trade officials, Japan and Chinese Taipei voiced support for some of the elements in the Korean proposal. Other Members such as the US, New Zealand, Chile, Norway and Australia however criticized the paper's low level of ambition.

Earlier in the week (7-8 December), the Group took up the issue of anti-dumping, discussing two bracketed issues in the Chair's draft text: (a) causation of injury; and (b) anti-circumvention, as well as a number of un-bracketed issues.

In discussions on horizontal subsidies on 9 December, the Group took up the bracketed topic of "certain financing of loss-making institutions".

According to trade officials, while some Members expressed support for including this amendment, a number of developing countries voiced concern that this could discriminate against state-trading enterprises.

The Chair said that the next meeting of the Group would be on 25-27 January 2010 to discuss horizontal subsidies (two new proposals from China on countervailing measures) and fisheries subsidies.

On 1-4 March 2010, he said that the Group will discuss his text on anti-dumping (the bracketed texts on "zeroing", public interest, lesser duty, and sunset reviews). +