WTO: UNEP video on fisheries subsidies

Some of you may have already seen the short documentary that UNEP has posted on YOUTUBE on fisheries subsidies and the WTO. The title of the video is "Caught Out - The way forward inf fisheries subsidies negotiations"

I will quote some of the statements made by two individuals representing two key actors in the ongoing discussions on fisheries subsidies at the WTO. Here are their names and the sentences that I found were important:

Pascal LAMY, Director General of the WTO:

"Fisheries subsidies is one area where the connexion between sustainability, environmental protection and trade opening can support each other. A sort of win-win-win relationship which is what we are trying to do between UNEP and WTO."
"What was achieved in Doha and then in Hong Kong is an agreement, a mandate, that WTO Members should negotiate strict disciplines on fisheries subsidies."

Achim STEINER Executive Director UNEP:

"The negotiations on fisheries where unusual from start since, unlike in any other trade negotiations, there was an environmental outcome set as an objective from the beginning."

Both speakers point to the environmental dimension of the negotiations. Mr Steiner goes even further and asserts that "...an environmental outcome [was] set as an objective from the beginning".

This statement is somewhat debatable. In my view there is nothing in the main Doha Ministerial Declaration, and more specifically in Paragraph 28, which would point to an explicit environmental outcome with the rang of objective, in relation to fisheries subsidies.

It is true that there is a cross-reference to Article 31 "Trade and Environment", but this article refers mainly to relationships between WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEAs), exchange of information between WTO and MEA's Secretariats and tariff reductions in environmental goods. Though I miss a clear reference to an objective, as it is the case in the three aforementioned items, for the fisheries subsidies negotiations.

In my view, the setting of environmental objectives came only with the Hong Kong declaration. The language of this declaration (Paragraph I.9. in Annex D) is clear in terms of setting environmental objectives "[...] the Group should strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing, [...]"

This was not the case in what Mr Steiner calls "the beginning", i.e. the Doha Declaration. I copy here Paragraph 28:
"In the context of these negotiations, participants shall also aim to clarify and improve WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries. We note that fisheries subsidies are also referred to in paragraph 31."

Here is the link to the video:


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