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TWN 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 trade agreements.
 
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 meeting.
 
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 delay.
 
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. +

 


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