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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov15/01)
2 November 2015
Third World Network


WTO Rules Group takes up four new proposals
Published in SUNS #8122 dated 28 October 2015


Geneva, 27 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal open-ended meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 23 October considered four new proposals including a proposed draft decision on fisheries subsidies tabled by Peru for the upcoming Nairobi Ministerial Conference.

According to trade officials, the Chair of the Negotiating Group, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, called on members to step up their efforts in the weeks ahead in order to nail down any possible outcome in the "rules" area for the Nairobi Ministerial Conference this December.

In his concluding remarks at the meeting, the Chair said that the task ahead in the seven weeks remaining until Nairobi was very clear - circumscribe the scope of discussions, prioritize the issues, and intensify the negotiations, in that order.

"Unfortunately, the solutions won't come from elsewhere," said Ambassador McCook. "Members in the room will have to decide to move forward or move in place."

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Chair informed members that bilateral consultations that he had held with delegations over the past two weeks focused on two issues: what contribution delegations believed rules might make to outcomes at Nairobi; and what the views of delegations were regarding the situation in the rules area post-Nairobi.

On the Nairobi Ministerial, Ambassador McCook said that many delegations he met with identified transparency in the rules area as a possible element for a Nairobi outcome, with some emphasizing the importance of limiting the objective to a "workable" transparency outcome.

Some delegations believe this outcome should cover transparency in anti-dumping (within the WTO context and, for some, in anti-dumping investigations) and some believe that it should also cover countervailing measures, including notification requirements.

Several delegations stressed the importance of an outcome on fisheries subsidies, which could be seen as a development outcome.

According to the Chair, one delegation told him that it was not a proponent for a transparency outcome in Nairobi, that existing transparency obligations were already burdensome, and that outcomes on transparency alone would be unbalanced and difficult to accept.

As for post-Nairobi, Ambassador McCook said some envisaged a specific "built-in" agenda on rules while others said the rules negotiations should continue without prejudging how they should be addressed.

DRAFT DECISION ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES

Peru tabled a proposed draft decision (TN/RL/W/264) on fisheries subsidies for the Nairobi Ministerial Conference.

The draft decision states:

"The Ministerial Conference decides:

"1. To make a tangible effort in order to prevent overfishing and overcapacity and to promote the recovery of over-fished stocks, including but not limited to, the control and reduction of all subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, with a view towards its complete elimination.

"2. To establish on a period of (*** year(s)) prohibitions on:

"i. Subsidies on fishing activities affecting over-fished stocks;

"ii. Subsidies provided to any vessel engaged in IUU fishing.

"Under these prohibitions Members would not be able to introduce any new subsidies in these two areas or maintain existing subsidies beyond the limited transitional period, specially related to vessels construction and fuel subsidies.

"3. To provide information to enable effective monitoring [of] the control and reduction of subsidies, in particular on, but not limited to:

* "Fuel subsidies where these may have an impact on fisheries.

* "Status of the fish stocks in the fishery for which the subsidy is provided.

* "Total imports/export per species.

"4. To take into consideration appropriate and effective special and differential treatment of artisanal fisheries as a crucial issue for food security, development of local community and poverty reduction in the world."

One of the other proposals, tabled by the Russian Federation (TN/RL/W/262), calls for developing a common understanding among Members of the content and format of the non-confidential summary that would permit a reasonable understanding of the substance of information submitted in confidence in anti-dumping investigations.

Also tabled is a technical paper by the European Union (TN/RL/W/263) which follows up on a 16 July proposal on transparency across the four rules negotiating areas, namely, horizontal subsidies, anti-dumping, fisheries subsidies and regional trade agreements.

Another is also a follow-up paper by Japan ((TN/RL/W/265) on issues of transparency and due process in anti-dumping.

According to trade officials, most delegations said that their capitals have not had time to examine the proposals (which were only submitted over the past few days) in detail and that their remarks were preliminary.

The United States, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and China, in whole or in part, said some of the proposals were too ambitious given the "re-calibrated" outcome now being sought in Nairobi and that expectations in this area needed to be toned down.

There was also not enough time left before Nairobi to address these proposals in any detail, they added.

According to trade officials, India, South Africa, China, Argentina, and Papua New Guinea (for the Pacific group of countries), in whole or in part, said that some of the proposals would impose unacceptably burdensome notification obligations on developing countries and that these countries would draw little, if any, benefit from these initiatives.

The Russian Federation, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Paraguay and Chile were more supportive of the proposals, in whole or in part, saying that they provide a positive step forward.

The US and China were supportive of the Russian proposal, said trade officials.

On fisheries subsidies, members of the "Friends of Fish" group (the US, New Zealand, Iceland, Argentina, Chile, and Norway) and a few other members welcomed Peru's proposal.

They said an outcome on fisheries subsidies in Nairobi was important, particularly as the new UN Sustainable Development Goals call for a prohibition on certain forms of harmful fisheries subsidies by 2020.

However, other members such as Japan and South Korea voiced opposition to Peru's proposal.

According to trade officials, Ghana (for the African Group), Dominica (for the ACP Group), and El Salvador highlighted the need to take account of the concerns of developing countries and the needs of their fishing fleets as well as the need for technical assistance.

The Chair, Ambassador McCook, said that he would meet with the proponents of the various proposals in the days ahead in order to determine the scope for moving forward.

According to trade officials, he will organize another meeting of the negotiating group on Thursday, 29 October. +

 


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