Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May08/12)
Rules Group takes up elements of fisheries subsidies disciplines
Geneva, 28 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 24-25 April heard amongst others a proposal by Canada allowing members - both developed and developing alike - to support small-scale fishing, as well as a joint proposal by India and Indonesia that stressed the need for effective special and differential treatment for developing countries.
The Group also discussed two other subjects suggested by the Chair of the Group - fisheries management system and peer review.
The Chair, Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay, also gave a detailed report of the plurilateral consultations that he held in March, and on anti-dumping and subsidies (last week).
Furthermore, the Chair announced his intention to produce a document to help all delegations move forward - to arrive at a "comfort level" in the horizontal process. He however did not explain further what kind of document it would be.
the informal meeting,
The paper provides a brief background of the nature of the marine fisheries in most developing countries. It said that most developing countries have large sections of their population involved in fisheries. More often than not, fishing is a means of livelihood in such countries, as opposed to its pre-dominantly commercial nature in developed countries.
Further, the fisheries sector is characterized by unpredictability and seasonality of catch, where prices obtained for catch on any given day can be highly uncertain. Available evidence also suggests that coastal fishing communities, in general, have lower levels of literacy, a lower sex ratio, and poorer conditions of housing, as compared to national averages.
Evidence also suggests that fishing communities are faced with a deteriorating quality of life as a result of pollution, sea erosion, increased pressure on coastal lands, degradation of the coastal environment and displacement, said the paper.
addition, the technology used for fishing in developing countries is
also very basic, with large sections of the fishing community using
un-powered boats or at best, vessels with minimal motorization (up to
10 Horse Power outboard motors). For example, 44% of the fishing vessels
to the paper, the fishing infrastructure in most developing countries
is under-developed and in need of large doses of state intervention.
It is therefore clear that developing countries need to protect the livelihood concerns of their poor fishermen and also take up major infrastructure development. Further, given the public good nature of the infrastructure and the involvement of huge investments with long gestation lags, it is clear that the State would have to continue to support such activities, the paper stressed.
The paper said that it is evident that the Chair's text on fisheries subsidies will not only restrict the efforts of developing countries at formulating and implementing public policies to address livelihood concerns of poor fishermen, but will also hinder their efforts at building infrastructure. Moreover, it seems to be unfair to restrict the very subsidies that developed countries have historically given to their small and artisanal fishermen and for developing their infrastructure.
The paper goes on to analyse the Chair's text and explains why developing countries would have a problem in accepting the S&D provisions in their current form. The paper provides a similar rationale for the difficulty in accepting Article V (in the proposed Annex VIII in the Chair's text on fisheries subsidies to the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures) on fisheries management.
The paper also outlines the position of the two countries on notification and surveillance requirements (Article VI) and transitional provisions (Article VII). It provides an annex, where amendments to the Chair's text on fisheries subsidies have been suggested.
According to trade officials, the paper will be discussed at the next meeting of the Group.
Canada introduced a room document that proposed adding to the general exceptions a provision that would allow members (developed and developing countries alike) to support small-scale fishing.
to trade officials,
to trade officials,
The EU strongly supported what it described as a simple and workable proposal. Hong Kong-China said that support for small-scale fisheries should be allowed for all members.
Taipei welcomed the general thrust of the proposal, while
to trade officials,
to trade officials,
The Group also discussed two other subjects suggested by the Chair - fisheries management system and peer review. According to trade officials, many delegations said that the requirement for establishing a fisheries management system is at the heart of the draft agreement to control over-fishing.
to trade officials, the EU,
With respect to the peer review of members' fisheries regime, the Chair clarified that this would be in the form of written question-and-answer format similar to the current working procedure in the WTO Committee on Subsidies. He said that this would not be a review by scientific experts but by trade representatives, who can draw from expertise of organizations outside the WTO.
to trade officials, many delegations said that they felt more comfortable
with the text after this clarification, including
In conclusion, the Chair said that there had been a very good discussion this week, and the one on peer review was encouraging. He noted that the Group is concerned not only with saving fish but also with saving jobs.
On the afternoon of 25 April, the Chair gave a detailed report on the plurilateral consultations that he held in March, and on anti-dumping and subsidies (last week).
On anti-dumping, Ambassador Valles Galmes said that the consultations dealt with the following subjects: information request to affiliates, facts available, duty assessment, new shipper review, changed circumstances, limited examination (Article 6), price undertakings, deletion of the lesser-duty rule, cost allocation and transition rules on the automatic sunset.
He said that consultations were also held on proposals of members not addressed in his text: de minimis margins, negligible import volumes, mandatory preliminary determination, standing, seasonal perishable products, and compliance.
On subsidies, there were discussions on the following issues - regulated prices, below-cost financing, allocation of subsidies and footnote number 2.
were also consultations on the following subsidies proposals not addressed
in the Chair's text: benchmark estimation (by
to trade officials,
According to trade officials, the Chair noted that the rules area has been the subject of two "Green Room" meetings (restricted meetings convened by the WTO Director-General) and that there were statements made at the recent informal meeting of the TNC.
He assured delegations that he had carefully taken very good note of the statements made by delegations at those meetings.
He said that he intended to produce a document to help all delegations move forward - to arrive at a comfort level in the horizontal process. He will do so in good faith, in a manner that will help all reflect on where the negotiations stand, and on how members could proceed forward after the horizontal process.
The Chair promised to do his best but stressed that this was not the end of the road but just the beginning. He cautioned against over-mystifying what the Chair can do - as this would put an unbearable weight on his shoulders.
Delegations are the ones who have to negotiate, the Chair stressed, and that their sights must be trained beyond the horizontal process.
The next meetings of the Rules Group are scheduled for the week of 13 May (on fisheries subsidies) and the week of 19 May (on anti-dumping). +