WTO: fisheries subsidies should be part of the single undertaking...according to Barbados and New Zealand

Mining in the internet n the issue of fisheries subsidies negotiations I found an interesting interview that “Subsidy Watch” an electronic newsletter that provides news, commentary and analysis related to subsidies and sustainable development published in May 2009, in its issue 39.

The interviewed were Matthew A. Wilson, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations and other International Organisations at Geneva and Alice Tipping, Second Secretary to the WTO for the New Zealand Permanent Mission in Geneva. According to Subsidy Watch “Japan and the European Commission were also asked to respond, but did not do so before our publishing deadline.” I wonder whether the US were also asked to respond to the questions.

The last question is about whether the WTO should stick to the single undertaking when it comes to fisheries subsidies negotiations. I copy hereunder the full question and the answers, highlighting the passages with references to fisheries subsidies staying in the single undertaking.

SW: What are the odds that the fisheries subsidies negotiations move to another venue if the WTO talks remain stalled for too long? In a related question, if the round as a whole does not progress in the near future, would you endorse having the fisheries negotiations ‘carved out’ so that they could proceed separately?

Barbados: I am confident that the Round will be completed. The talks are not stalled. We are still having meetings and negotiations and there is still much to discuss and agree to in the area of fisheries, so it is too early to begin looking at shifting the venue or carving out any negotiations for early harvest. The DDA is clear on the issue of the single undertaking, so all issues will have to be adopted by Ministers simultaneously. I do believe that, even in the unlikely event that we were not to finalise the negotiations on fisheries, the issue of sustainability, fisheries management and the developmental aspects of fisheries have been sufficiently ventilated over the past few years, especially by important NGOs such as the WWF, the ICTSD and OCEANA, that engagement on this issue would be continue. The key is for the FAO and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to follow through on some of the issues being discussed at the WTO, even in the event that there is no formal agreement.

New Zealand: The WTO is the appropriate venue for multilateral negotiations on fisheries subsidies for two key reasons. First, the problem is as much economic and trade-related as it is environmental. Over a third of global fish production is traded internationally, making fish one of the most traded ‘agricultural’ commodities. Fish and fish products account for around 13 percent of global ‘agricultural’ trade. The World Bank and the FAO, in their 2008 report entitled “Sunken Billions”, estimate that the potential benefits of this trade are far less than they should be; the economic losses in the global marine fisheries industry, resulting from inefficiencies (including subsidies) and overfishing add up to US$50 billion per year— that’s US$1.5 trillion over the last 30 years.

Second, disciplines around fisheries subsidies should be derived from, and consistent with, existing disciplines around general subsidies. The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures’ existing disciplines set a solid, multilaterally agreed legal framework for these trade measures, and the terminology and concepts involved have been interpreted and clarified by the dispute-settlement process over many years. It is the logical institutional and legal base from which to build a new set of disciplines on fisheries subsidies.

These negotiations provide a unique opportunity to create effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies that deplete fish stocks on which the livelihoods of vulnerable communities depend. The negotiations are an integral element of the Doha Development Agenda, and New Zealand believes the final disciplines should form part of the outcome of the Doha round as a whole.

Here is the link to the full text of the interview:


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