Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec16/06)
21 December 2016
Group discusses three new proposals on fisheries subsidies
in SUNS #8375 dated 13 December 2016
Geneva, 12 Dec (Kanaga
Raja) -- The WTO Negotiating Group on Rules, at an informal meeting on 9 December,
discussed in detail three new proposals on fisheries subsidies.
others, the objectives of these proposals include securing an outcome in this
area at the eleventh session of the ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires
December next year.
The three new proposals were tabled by the European
Union, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries, and six Latin
American countries at a dedicated session on fisheries subsidies chaired by Ambassador
Wayne McCook of Jamaica.
According to trade officials, the three proposals
all had similar objectives, namely achieving SDG Target 14.6, ensuring effective
disciplines in this area while also ensuring special and differential treatment
for developing and least-developed countries, and securing an outcome at MC11.
[SDG Target 14.6 states: "By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries
subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies
that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from
introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special
and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should
be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation."]
The proponents of the proposals also called for negotiations in this area
to take place on a stand-alone basis, with no linkage to other issues in the Rules
THE EU PROPOSAL
The EU's text-based
proposal, first introduced at a Rules Group meeting on 11 November, was presented
by Mr Stefaan Depypere, Director of International Affairs at the European Commission's
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
the EU proposal (TN/RL/GEN/181), fisheries subsidies, similarly to other types
of subsidies, can only effectively be addressed through a multilateral agreement
covering all WTO Members. The fact that the sustainability of global fisheries
is at stake, further reinforces the need for multilateral action.
EU said its submission sets out in more detail the kind of subsidies that are
harmful from a commercial and environmental point of view and therefore should
be eliminated or prevented from being granted in the future.
purpose of this submission, said the EU, the issue of fisheries subsidies comprises
four main components: (i) prohibited subsidies linked to overcapacity; (ii) prohibited
subsidies linked to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU)-fishing; (iii) transparency;
(iv) special-differential treatment (SDT).
In order to build on the existing
consensus, the submission acknowledges the principles established in the SDG 14.6
while identifying in a factual manner the particular types of subsidies that contribute
to those effects.
The submission proposes a ban on capacity-increasing
subsidies but foresees special and differential treatment that would allow developing
and least developed countries to derogate from such a ban under certain conditions.
The proposed approach aims to go as far as possible in prohibiting capacity-enhancing
subsidies which lead to overcapacity and overfishing, and at the same time defines
a clear and transparent framework based on international law for special and differential
treatment, recognising that fishing activities are a traditional and economically
important activity for multiple communities.
This would help contribute
to creating a level playing field for operators, said the proposal.
submission also proposes prohibition of subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing,
which would apply to operators whose vessels are included in the subsidising country's
IUU-vessel list and/or that of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).
On transparency, the submission proposes a notification requirement for information
that is strictly necessary and relevant, "while not being overly burdensome
for WTO Members."
"In view of the global commitment made in
SDG 14.6 to advance rapidly to discipline certain fisheries subsidies, immediate
efforts are needed in the WTO to restart negotiations with a view to preparing
an outcome for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference that will be held in Buenos
Aires in 2017," said the EU proposal.
According to trade officials,
Mr Depypere said that the emphasis of the proposal was in addressing subsidies
that contribute to overcapacity.
Specialists all agree that this is the
main problem and that tackling this would resolve nearly all the problems related
to the conservation of fisheries stocks, he added.
To this end, he said
the proposal calls on members not to grant or maintain subsidies that increase
the capacity of a fishing vessel, or support the acquisition of equipment that
increases the ability of a fishing vessel to find fish; that support the construction
of fishing vessels or the importation of fishing vessels; and that support the
transfer of fishing vessels to other countries including through the creation
of joint ventures with partners of those countries.
On the issue of banning
subsidies for IUU fishing, Mr Depypere said this was "evident, you don't
According to trade officials, while many of the
delegations that spoke said that the EU's proposal was helpful in starting work
on a concrete outcome for MC11 or would serve as a good basis for future work,
a number of the delegations voiced concern over the absence of any reference to
the need for disciplines on subsidies that contribute to overfishing.
These include the Philippines, the US, Dominica for the ACP group, New Zealand,
Norway, Australia, Brazil, and Colombia.
Other members voiced criticism
over an exception for fuel de-taxation subsidies.
According to trade
officials, Senegal (for the LDC Group), Morocco (for the African Group) and India
said the EU's definition of S&D treatment and subsistence fishing - including
an exception for subsidies to fishing boats of 10 meters in length or less - was
The US said that differences over these definitional issues
had already emerged in earlier talks within the Doha Round context.
US asked what had changed to make the EU believe that members could now reach
agreement on this.
Japan said the focus should be on fisheries management
and that it was not appropriate to ban all the subsidies proposed by the EU unilaterally.
Several delegations pointed out that the proposal's emphasis on limiting
new capacity would lock in the advantages already enjoyed by those members with
large, industrial fishing fleets and deny those members with small fisheries industries
and fleets the right to expand in the future.
According to trade officials,
the EU said some of the issues raised by the members were "fiendishly complex",
such as the fuel de-taxation issue.
If these were not exempt, the EU
asked, would this result in "bunkering" vessels setting up outside of
territorial waters to fuel ships and posing threats to the environment?
The EU also maintained that the idea of disciplining subsidies that contribute
to overfishing was over-ambitious and probably not feasible.
want something concrete for MC11 and reply to the challenge set under the SDGs,
they need to focus on something concrete, feasible, definable and implementable,
the EU said.
The Chair summarised by saying that while the EU described
some issues as "fiendishly complex", other members viewed the need to
address subsidies that contribute to overfishing as well as overcapacity as "fiendishly
Nevertheless, he said, "what has taken place this
morning is a serious discussion around a serious proposal."
Dominica introduced the proposal on behalf of the
According to the ACP proposal (TN/RL/GEN/182), fisheries are
a crucial source of income and employment, particularly in developing countries,
and contribute directly to economic growth, food and nutrition security.
According to the FAO, fish provide more than 3.1 billion people with almost 20%
of their average per capita intake of animal protein, and the sector supports
the livelihoods of between 10 and 12% of the global population.
ACP countries, fish also represent a vital share of total exports and provide
critical opportunities for value addition.
Overfishing, however, is undermining
fisheries' ability to play their crucial role in supporting food security and
development, said the ACP proposal.
Within this backdrop, it said stocks
are faced with depletion.
Today, 58% of the stocks are fished at maximum
levels with no room to grow, while the share of over-fished stocks increased from
10% in 1974 to over 31% in 2013.
The ACP said fisheries subsidies, estimated
at over 35 billion dollars annually, are a major factor contributing to overfishing
This is particularly the case of harmful subsidies
granted to large-scale industrial fishing in areas beyond national jurisdictions,
targeting straddling or highly migratory stocks in the high seas and close to
the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of developing countries.
The ACP proposal
said that negotiations aimed at establishing effective disciplines on fisheries
subsidies must continue as a matter of priority, within the Negotiating Group
on Rules leading to a multilateral outcome.
"Given the urgency facing
the international community and the need to meet the 2020 deadline agreed under
SDG goal 14.6, negotiations should also aim at delivering concrete results by
the eleventh Ministerial Conference."
by MC11 must deliver on the development dividend on their own merit without being
hampered by linkages with other negotiating areas."
should aim to discipline fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity
and over-fishing, and eliminate subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated
As a priority, disciplines should target subsidies provided
to large scale commercial or industrial fishing and subsidies to fishing activities
outside of the Member's maritime jurisdiction (i. e. in the high seas or in the
EEZ of another Member e. g. through access agreement).
In addition, said
the ACP, to further address most developing country and LDC Members' concerns,
Members might consider adopting the principle that "nothing shall prevent"
a developing country or LDC Member from maintaining or granting subsidies that
do not contribute to overfishing and overcapacity or do not affect third countries
such as subsidies to:
* Coastal fishing activities related exclusively
to the artisanal, small scale, subsistence and livelihood of the fishermen and
their families within the Member's territorial waters;
* Fishing activities,
which exclusively exploit domestic fish stocks whose ranges are confined to the
* Fishing activities, which exclusively exploit quotas
or any other rights, established by a regional fisheries management organization
(RFMO) or a regional fisheries management arrangement.
aim at prohibiting, at a minimum, the following types of subsidies with due regard
given to specificities of jurisdictions with multi-species catch: subsidies to
fishing vessels or fishing activity negatively affecting fish stocks that are
in an over-fished condition; and subsidies provided to vessels or operators engaged
in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
effective special and differential treatment for developing countries including
LDCs and SVEs shall be an integral part of any additional disciplines and should
take into account the importance of the sector to development priorities, poverty
reduction, livelihood, and food security concerns.
Such provisions should
include among others: prohibitions beyond those outlined should not apply to LDCs
and SVEs; flexibilities in the design and implementation of disciplines; technical
assistance and capacity building to address institutional and financial constraints
faced in the implementation of disciplines; and transparency and notification
requirements that are proportionate to the capacity of developing countries and
their contribution towards overfishing and overcapacity, the ACP proposal said.
According to trade officials, members welcomed the ACP proposal while expressing
some concerns with specific provisions.
A number of delegations including
the EU, the US, New Zealand and Japan questioned a proposed exception for subsidies
related to fishing activities which exclusively exploit domestic fish stocks in
a member's EEZ.
Iceland questioned the rationale for this carve-out given
that most fishing, including large-scale industrial fishing, takes place in EEZs.
Canada said that the proposal was a good basis for discussion. It was open
to discussion on other subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity.
Korea said that the best way to bring over-fished stocks back on a sustainable
path is through effective fisheries management based on science.
said that its paper was not a text-based proposal and that the ACP group realized
it would need to come back and provide some clarity on some of the ideas put forward.
The Chair said that there was need for further reflection and consultation
in framing broader responses to the initiative.
BY LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES
The proposal co-sponsored by Argentina,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay (TN/RL/GEN/183) noted that in recent
years, a growing consensus within the international community has been emerging
on the need to act to prevent the harmful impacts of certain fisheries subsidies
on sustainability of marine resources.
It said the Trade Facilitation
Agreement (TFA) approach can result in a useful tool for the Fisheries Subsidies'
"Such a scheme has been accepted by all WTO Members
and has allowed them to deliver a multilateral outcome recently. Its structure
can be adapted to the particularities of these negotiations, serving as a practical
"Through the SDG 14.6, our Heads of State and Government
gave to WTO Members a specific mandate to negotiate this issue on its own merits,
without linking its process to any other WTO negotiation. Therefore this should
be a standalone Agreement, as the TFA, in which all Members should agree on definitions,
disciplines and timelines," said the six Latin American countries.
As a complement, said the proposal, rules should be established aiming at: ensuring
the appropriate enforcement of disciplines; exploring cooperation between competent
authorities; identifying cases in which flexibilities (S&DT) should be given
to fulfil the commitments included in the Agreement.
According to the
proposal, the commitments should be established by MC11 and implemented by 2020,
according to SDG 14.6.
Colombia introduced the proposal, saying that
the initiative was the subject of wide-ranging consultations with members, and
an attempt to respond through multilateral negotiations to the serious situation
facing the oceans.
It was hopeful that the approach would help achieve
results in Buenos Aires.
Peru said that the heads of government through
the UN gave a specific mandate to the WTO to negotiate fisheries subsidy disciplines
on their own merits and that the talks should not be linked with any other negotiations.
According to trade officials, several members said they understood and appreciated
the logic underpinning the approach by the proponents.
However, the proposal
lacked details, specifically on the subsidies to be disciplined and the right
of developing country members to designate their own transition periods in light
of the 2020 goal fixed under SDG 14.6.
Mexico and New Zealand said they
saw the Latin American proposal for a TFA framework as a complement to the two
other proposals rather than overlapping.
China said SDG 14.6 constitutes
a mandate for negotiating fisheries subsidy disciplines on its own and that it
respects the UN General Assembly on this matter.
It however questioned
how WTO members were to achieve this goal while respecting the current WTO negotiating
mandate which links the fisheries talks to others under the Rules heading.
Peru said the proponents believed that the proposed TFA-style flexibilities
would result in some targeted fisheries subsidies being phased out beyond 2020,
but that certain subsidies such as those linked to IUU fishing should go by that
Meanwhile, Canada informed the meeting that a group of countries
participating in a plurilateral initiative on fisheries subsidies were planning
to hold their first substantive meeting early next year and that any member wishing
to take part in the initiative could join in.
According to trade officials,
16 members have signalled their interest so far, with Panama, Iceland and Brazil
the latest to join the discussions. +