The Director General of the WTO has, once again, referred to fisheries subsidies as a prominent negotiating subject in the WTO Doha Round.
He did that recently, during a speech he delivered at the Round Table Centre for Public Studies in Santiago on 15 April 2010.
This time he framed his reference to fisheries subsidies by underscoring how important "trade rules" are for WTO Members. Here is the paragraph of Mr Lamy's speech where he speaks about fisheries subsidies:
We all know that governments could do things to restrict trade without infringing their WTO obligations, but the rules draw a line beyond which it is not possible to go without breaking the system, and more importantly in my view, the WTO has created a culture of cooperation. The trade rules have stood to the protectionist pressures but we now need to ensure that this culture of cooperation brings the Doha Round to its completion. We need to ensure that the rules of the WTO, which are a public good, are improved and updated. Failure may be costly on a global scale. Take the example of fishery subsidies. We have a mandate to negotiate the prohibition of certain subsidies which contribute to over-capacity and over-fishing. Present disciplines are inadequate. Scientific studies tell us that over 80 per cent of fish stocks are over-exploited. We need action and for that, we need leadership from our membership. The coastal population in Chile which has been severely affected by the earthquake and which is dependent on fishing activities knows this only too well.
So, according to Mr Lamy trade rules are a "public good" to be improved and updated and are critical to fight problems such as over-capacity and over-fishing.
What I miss in this paragraph, and in the speech, is a reference to the fact that these rules relate to the use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures. Nowhere in the speech could I find these (ugly?) words. And yet, Chilean fish products, i.e. farmed salmon, have been subject to anti-dumping measures imposed by the U.S.
Rules on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy are also discussed under the so called “Rules” chapter and it seems that, unless progress is made in these “nasty” area of what the EU has called “trade defence instruments” (and in all other areas of the WTO Doha Round), no new rules on fisheries subsidies will be agreed. This holds true, provided WTO Members will continue to stick to principle of the “single undertaking”.
Here is the link to Mr Lamy’s speech: