EU: Fisheries subsidies at the UK's House of Lords

Hereunder is a question put to the European Commission in the context of a report titled "The Progress of the Common Fisheries Policy" (22 July 2008) produced by the Committee on the European Union of the House of Lords.
9. What are your views on the possible impact on EU fisheries structural policy of WTO level discussions as regards subsidies in the fishing sector?

On 30 November 2007 the Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on "Rules", Ambassador Valle (Uruguay), circulated a draft consolidated text to Members on the subjects covered by the "Rules" chapters, ie anti-dumping and countervailing measure and subsidies, including fisheries subsidies.

The Commission notes that a number of elements included in the aforementioned text reflect the two key principles guiding the EU's policies for aid to the fisheries sector, namely to prohibit subsidies that encourage overcapacity, leading to overfishing, while allowing subsidies that help to remove capacity in excess of available fish resources. These elements of the draft negotiating text are incorporated in the so called "red" (prohibited) and "green" (allowed) box types of subsidies.

Nevertheless the Commission is concerned that the proposals by the Chair, as they now stand, could prevent public authorities from granting support to the fishing sector to ensure the transition to a sustainable state. Examples of this are the case of aid programmes intended for a smooth and efficient restructuring of parts of the fishing industry. Furthermore the proposed exceptions ("green" box) seem insufficient to allow for the implementation of cleaner technologies, including the replacement of engines, in order to limit emissions harmful for the environment.

Besides the proposals to prohibit or to allow certain types of subsidies, the Chair's text includes certain provisions to reinforce the notification of subsidies. In this respect, the Commission would like to see a very ambitious result of the negotiations, one which would bring WTO Members at least to the same level of transparency as the one shown by the EU internally, when implementing structural funds, and externally, when notifying aid to the WTO. Increased transparency will not only generate knowledge about the types of subsidies given but will also provide a much needed insight into the impact of such subsidies both on trade and on the sustainable use of fishery resources.

In sum, the Commission's assessment is that the current negotiating proposals, as set out in the Chair's text, should be more balanced. In other words, the WTO should be given the tools to tackle the problem of overcapacity and overfishing while allowing for the provision of aid that positively contributes to the sustainable exploitation of available fishery resources and that mitigates the negative impacts of adjustment measures on fishing communities. This assessment is shared by other WTO Members in the developing world as well as developed countries.

More details on the positions of the European Union in the fisheries negotiations are available in the three submissions made to the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 23 April 2003 (WTO document TN/RL/W/82), on 11 April 2005 (WTO document TN/RL/W/178 and on 26 April 2006 (WTO document TN/RL/GEN/I34). These documents are public and can be downIoaded from the WTO's website.
Here is the link to the UK's Parliament where the above text can be found.


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