WTO: fisheries subsidies negotiation and developmental aspects of the Doha Round

The WTO Secretariat published on 19 August 2010 a revision (nr. 4) of a document titled “DEVELOPMENTAL ASPECTS OF THE DOHA ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS”

This Report (or note) was established by the WTO Secretariat following a request by WTO Members for a background paper for the 54th Session of the CTD of the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD), held on 5 October 2005, at which this Group undertook a preliminary review of the "developmental aspects" of the Doha Round of negotiations.

In this latest revision of the note the Secretariat writes the following on fisheries subsidies negotiations (numbers refer to paragraphs):

107. Finally, in the area of fisheries subsidies, developing Members point in general to the important role that fisheries can have for poverty alleviation, livelihoods and food security. Concerning possible new disciplines on fisheries subsidies, some developing Members favour very strict disciplines with few exceptions and limited S&D, while others seek broad exemptions from any new disciplines.

108. In November 2007, on the basis of the mandate from Ministers at Hong Kong, the Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR) tabled his first draft texts covering anti-dumping, subsidies and countervailing measures, and fisheries subsidies. These were consolidated texts that addressed a wide range of issues in all of these areas, based on the proposals and discussions that had preceded them. The texts contained specific proposed language from the Chairman on the issues addressed, with no brackets or alternatives. On fisheries subsidies, the Chairman's text took the form of an entirely new annex to the SCM Agreement, proposing a comprehensive set of new disciplines in this area. These texts, which were discussed in detail during 2008, all proved to be very controversial, and the gaps on the most politically sensitive issues were not narrowed through the discussions. In December 2008, therefore, the Chairman circulated new, "bottom-up", texts on anti-dumping and on subsidies and countervailing measures, proposing specific language where in his view there was the greatest possibility for convergence, and for the most sensitive issues replacing his former proposed language with square brackets summarizing the range of positions of delegations. For fisheries subsidies, such an approach was not possible as there is no pre-existing set of disciplines in this area. The Chairman thus circulated a roadmap for discussion, containing a set of detailed questions on the major issues needing resolution. The Group completed its discussion of these texts in early 2010, and has begun considering new proposals that have been tabled in various areas of its mandate.

112 112. Concerning fisheries subsidies, the main proponents of new, sector-specific disciplines comprise a group called "Friends of Fish", which includes a number of developing country Members. For the developing country proponents, the main concern is the artificial competitive advantage created by subsidies, which affect access to fish and contribute to the depletion of the resource. Most Members (developed as well as developing) have stressed the need for effective S&D as part of any fisheries subsidies package. Of particular concern in this regard are small-scale, artisanal fisheries and any subsidies thereto, as well as payments that some developing Members receive from foreign governments for access to the fisheries in their waters. Aquaculture is another area of considerable interest to many developing country Members, which seek to ensure that any new disciplines would not interfere with these activities. The 2007 Chairman's text on fisheries subsidies proposed S&D provisions to address developing Members' subsidies to different scales of fishing operations, and to address access payments. In addition, the scope of the text was limited to subsidies to marine capture fisheries (i.e., it did not extend to aquaculture). The Chairman's 2008 roadmap pursued these and other issues, which the Group discussed in detail during 2009. Since then, new proposals have been tabled, inter alia, by several groups of developing Members seeking to redefine the S&D provisions in different ways.

(d) Possible gains to developing countries
113. An eventual clarification and improvement of any of the rules under negotiation will increase the predictability of the trading system to the benefit of all Members. Moreover, an appropriate balance of rights and obligations will permit developing countries to pursue their development objectives and at the same time guard against practices that have a negative impact on their trade. In this regard, effective disciplines on the fisheries subsidies of the major subsidizing Members will benefit developing Members in terms of access to fisheries resources and in terms of reduced distortion of trade in fisheries products. Another area where balance is crucial concerns trade-offs between the costs and administrative burdens of the contingency protection system and its capacity to ensure fairness and transparency.

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