WTO: and now the IISD on fisheries subsidies as environmental issue at the Doha negotiations (and candidate for a separate agreement?)

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has recently published a document titled “A Sustainable Development Roadmap for the WTO” by Aaron Cosbey.

In this document the author discusses how the WTO can effectively contribute to one of its “constitutional objectives” (as recently put by Pascal Lamy at the 2010 World Economic Forum) namely sustainable development.

Among one of the “areas of need” (of action?), as put by the author, one finds the ongoing negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies (page 16)

Further the author refers to fisheries subsidies as one of the subjects holding the “…greatest potential in the Doha work program for environmental good if an ambitious agreement can be reached”. Here is the full paragraph (page 30) on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha negotiations:

The Doha talks on fisheries subsidies too are potentially valuable. Subsidies in the fisheries sector lower the cost of fishing and lead to overexploitation of the resource—too many fishermen and too many boats chasing too few fish. Government subsidies have been estimated at some 20 per cent of the value of the worldwide fish catch, and have contributed to declining fish stocks and marine environmental damage, particularly in the developing countries where the surplus capacity is often exported. These talks hold perhaps the greatest potential in the Doha work program for environmental good if an ambitious agreement can be reached. Some have also opined that if these talks succeed they may help pave the way for consideration of the next big item on the perverse subsidies agenda: fossil fuel subsidies.

And finally fisheries subsidies are identified as one area where “it will be easiest to push for” as being a priority and being achievable. Here is the paragraph, in page 47, where fisheries subsidies are mentioned.

Those items that are already on the WTO agenda are arguably easiest to push for: liberalization of environmental goods and services, fisheries subsidies, MEA observership, TRIPS and CBD, trade-related technical assistance, trade facilitation, capacity building, and collaboration in a revitalized EIF. Of course, it is not enough to simply be on the agenda— what is needed is an ambitious outcome in each of these areas. 

So, should the “single undertaking” in the Doha Round (“nothing is agreed until everything has been agreed”) fall victim to piece meal agreements on specific subjects? Are fisheries subsidies to be used as a battering ram  against the "single undertaking"?

I would very much welcome comments from readers on this latter issue.

Here is the link to download the document:


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