WTO: the BRICs and Mexico make proposals on "small-scale fisheries" and on... fisheries agreements

This week the so called BRICs (Brazil, China, India) and Mexico have made a joint written proposal modifying the Chair’s draft text agreement of November 2007.

The main thrust of the proposal is to present the other Members of the WTO with a definition of the so called « small scale fisheries ». According to this group of countries « small scale fisheries » have to be defined according to « socio-economic criteria ». Here are two paragraphs of the introductory part of the submission setting out the rationale for such proposal.

Here are extracts of the introductory part:
On the issue of small-scale, artisanal fisheries, the proponents decided to bring forward a definition based on socio-economic criteria, inspired by the current Article 6.2 of the Agreement on Agriculture. We believe that this is the best way for striking a satisfactory balance, in the absence of internationally-agreed definitions on those fisheries activities by other Organizations more directly involved in fisheries issues. Each Member should be able to work on its own definition, insofar as the criteria set forth in the future WTO disciplines are observed.
On the larger scale fisheries, criteria such as the boat size and the area of capture were replaced with provisions structured on the rights Members have under the international law. For those activities the controls in Articles IV and V would fully apply, in order to implement the Hong Kong mandate consistently with its main goal: to bar harmful fisheries subsidies that create over-fishing and produce overcapacity, as well as distort trade or production. Artificial distinctions such as the Exclusive Economic Zone limitation and the 10 meters threshold were thus deleted.

Another important feature of the proposal is that it introduces new language, under Article III, that would prohibit to developed countries those « subsidies arising from the further transfer, by a payer Member government, of access rights that it has acquired from another Member government to fisheries within the jurisdiction of such other Member.» if concluding such agreement with a developing country.

As an example all payments made in the context of the fisheries agreements concluded by the EU with developing countries could come under such prohibition.

Here is the aformentioned language:

III.4 III.3 Subsidies referred to in Article I.1(g) shall not be prohibited where the access rights are acquired by a developing country Member and the fishery in question is within the EEZ of a developing country Member,
 The fact that the words "the access rights are acquired by a developing country Member and" have been added imply that, to benefit from the exemption to the prohibition under Article I.1(g), the fisheries agreement must be concluded exclusively between developing countries. At least this is my interpretation.

Strangely enough the introductory part is silent about such substantial change to the Chair’s draft.

The full text of the submission, with WTO reference TN/RL/GEN/163 can be found at the WTO’s website.

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