Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jun15/14)
22 June 2015
Third World Network
US vs China and India showdown on fisheries subsidies
Published in SUNS #8042 dated 16 June 2015
Geneva, 15 Jun (D. Ravi Kanth) -- A "green room" meeting
with select trade envoys convened by World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Director-General Roberto Azevedo on Friday (June 12) to consider what
ought to be the disciplines on fisheries subsidies in the Doha rules
negotiations, resulted in a showdown between the United States on
the one side and China and India on the other over special and differential
treatment (S&DT) provisions, trade envoys told the SUNS.
In his attempt to cobble a post-Bali work program on Rules, the DG
took up only the issue of fisheries subsidies, a priority area for
the US and the Friends of Fish group led by New Zealand. The first
green room meeting on Rules was held on May 7 when the DG covered
all issues without delving into all the outstanding ones, particularly
in anti-dumping provisions and subsidies and countervailing measures.
The Doha Rules negotiations include four areas such as improvements
in anti-dumping, changes in subsidies and countervailing measures,
fisheries subsidies, and transparency improvements in the regional
During the meeting on fisheries subsidies, the US said that "we
are not going to give China S&DT." The US also posed a question
whether members are ready to support "illegal subsidies"
in the fisheries sector, according to trade envoys familiar with the
The US also maintained that the S&DT is a "threshold"
issue, suggesting that China and Vanuatu cannot have the same level
of flexibilities under S&DT, said a South American trade envoy.
The US stance led to some sharp exchanges with several developing
countries. China and India asked whether there is an attempt to introduce
"differentiation" among developing countries by the constant
reference to S&DT being a threshold issue, according to the envoy.
China hit back at the US by asking what commitments Washington is
going to undertake to curb its own fisheries subsidies. China also
maintained that its resource-poor fishermen would need S&DT flexibilities
for their survival.
India said while it would not support illegal subsidies in the fisheries
sector, it cannot accept recurring demands that S&DT flexibilities
will be decided on a threshold basis.
India maintained that it has huge "artisanal" fishermen
who are dependent for their livelihood on fishing, suggesting that
any attempt to rewrite the S&DT provisions need to be approved
by the trade ministers before negotiating the fisheries disciplines.
Despite the showdown between the US and China, the coordinator for
the ACP countries and New Zealand on behalf of the Friends of Fish
group of industrialized and developing countries said they are working
on a common framework.
"My impression is that we are moving ahead with what kinds of
disciplines members must pursue on fisheries subsidies and I remain
optimistic as this is an important issue for developing countries,"
a South American trade envoy said.
A trade envoy of the Friends of the Anti-Dumping group said there
has to be a balance within the four pillars - improving anti-dumping
provisions, subsidies and countervailing measures, fisheries subsidies,
and regional trading agreement.
"Right now, the emphasis is all on fisheries subsidies while
neglecting the other three pillars which doesn't augur well for the
negotiations," the envoy said.
In a proposal prepared on "due process and transparency"
in anti-dumping, several members of the Friends of Anti-Dumping clarified
last Friday (June 12) several issues that need to be addressed without
The members of the group, led by Japan, offered "concrete views
on substance on these issues by presenting (a) our conceptual understanding
of "WTO transparency", "transparency in the AD proceedings"
and "due process", (b) a number of elements of the un-bracketed
text amendments that relate to transparency and due process, and (c)
views on why these issues should be addressed referring to information
on recent dispute settlement cases as necessary."
The Friends of AD maintained that "transparency of AD investigation
procedures and due process rights are fundamental and are critical
aspects for improving the disciplines, principles and effectiveness
of the AD regime while preserving basic concepts."
Further, the group argued that "Transparency and due process
are vital to interested parties" as they need information and
reasonable procedures in order to participate effectively in an investigation
and defend their interests.
"This will be impossible unless the parties are kept fully informed
of all individual steps and procedures undertaken by the authority
from the initiation of the investigation until the imposition of AD
duty, have the opportunity to access all public/non-confidential information
on the record of an investigation in a timely manner, are given sufficient
time to prepare their factual and legal submissions, and are provided
with an explanation (either in a published notice or a separate report)
which provides details on the authority's assessment of the evidence
and its consideration of comments from interested parties," the
AD coalition argued.
Lastly, the AD group said "transparency and due process also
benefit the investigation authority" as they enable "the
authority to make fair, impartial and even-handed determinations that
can withstand eventual challenges."
"Such determinations are possible only where both domestic and
foreign interested parties are given sufficient opportunity to review
record evidence and submit comments and rebuttals," the members
of the AD group maintained.
Given the US opposition to improvements in the AD provisions, the
AD members are not sure how far their issues will be incorporated
in the post-Bali work program. The DG has not scheduled any green
room meeting on the AD provisions despite his eagerness to stitch
a work program on fisheries subsidies. +