WTO: is the Doha Round now under "life support"?

In my previous post I was discussing the "noises" that were coming from Geneva concerning the state of play in the WTO's Doha Development negotiations.

Well, it seems that today the Director General of the WTO discussed with delegates from the member countries the seriousness of the situation.

Here are a few articles and press releases on the issue:

US deals blow to global trade deal hopes

U.S. questions value of early Doha trade text

In Spanish:

OMC: brecha entre partes en negociaciones sobre ronda de Doha son "inmensas"

In French:

OMC/Doha: les écarts restent "immenses", pesant sur l'espoir d'un accord en été

And here is the statement of the US delegate at today's meeting in Geneva:


WTO: Is the Doha Round entering a (very, very) delicate phase?

This weekend I stumbled upon an interesting (and somewhat alarming) article, dated 24 April 2011, in the online edition of the Brazilian newspaper "O Globo". The article was titled "Com possibilidade remota de acordo, Rodada de Doha está em xeque".  

Translated into English the title would read something like: "Because of the remote possibility of an agreement, the Doha Round is now in check"

According to the article, which was quoting Brazil's Ambassador to the WTO, "the situation is serious".

Further, and referring to people who are closely following the negotiations, the article says that the negotiators are working on four scenarios:
1) continuity,
2) change of approach, i.e. keep trying, but with some adjustments,
3) "uncontrolled landing", featuring a dramatic end to the Round Doha, and
4) "organised ending", i.e. a way to suspend the process, without hurting the credibility of the multilateral trading system.

On the last scenario the article mentions that "It is the first time that the fourth hypothesis comes from the backstage and reaches the ears of other country Members of the organisation".

And last but least the article concludes by pointing the Mr Lamy who "concerned about the poor prospects about an agreement […] will start in the next month, a series of bilateral meetings.

Here is the link to the article:

The website of the Brazilian Ministry for External Relations (Itamaraty) has included this article in the Ministry's press review:

The situation appears indeed to be so serious that Mr Lamy, in the press conference following a panel discussion in the "Brussels Forum" of the German Marshall Fund on Saturday 26 March 2011, said that he would not answer questions related to the Doha round as he had a a session with the whole membership on Tuesday (29 March 2011) and he needed to talk to the WTO Membership before talking to journalists.

Here is the transcript of the link to the transcript of the press conference:

MALAYSIA: fuel subsidies

Malaysia is one of the countries in South East Asia that provides subsidies to its fishermen.

The Start Online reported last year (13 July 2010) on the answer by Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Noh Omar to a question by MP Datuk Sapawi Ahmad. Mr Sapawi asked on amount of subsidies distributed to traditional fishermen and ministry efforts to curb overfishing by licensed trawler boats.

According to the newspaper article:
"The government distributed 4.66 billion litres of subsidised diesel and 314.55 million litres of petrol worth RM3bil to fishermen in the last four years. Some 6.075 tonnes of fish worth RM36.45bil were landed from 2006 to 2010. The subsidies help to meet fuel cost, which comprises 70% of their operating cost."
The equivalent of RM (Malaysia Ringgit) of 3 billion is, at today's exchange rate, USD 990 million. This means that a yearly fuel subsidy of USD 247,5 million was provided by the government to fishermen in that country.

Compared to the total value of landings (yearly average of RM 9.11 billion or USD 3 billion) the yearly fuel subsidy represented around 8% of the total value of the catch.

Here is the link to the article:

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: fuel subsidies for poor fishermen

Even in the "land of plenty (of fuel)" fishermen need subsidies to purchase their fuel.

Recently I came across an article published on 7 May 2010 in the online edition of the "The National" (United Arab Emirates).

In the article it is mentioned that:
"Almost 600 Emirati fishermen are to be given subsidies totalling Dh3.8 million per year to support their struggling businesses."
The amount of Dh 3.8 million corresponds to + USD 1 million.  

It is also stated that boat engines are supplied by government to some fishermen. Here is a paragraph of the article:
"The ministry already supplies some fishermen with boat engines. Assistance is offered to those who have no other jobs and depend on the fishing to support their families. It also depends on how often they go fishing. For Ali al Mansouri, the head of the Abu Dhabi Fishermen Co-operative, the allowance would contribute to saving the traditional profession. "One of the reasons people are leaving this profession is the high cost of the fishing trip," he said."
Here is the link to the full article:

WTO: Pascal Lamy meets environmental NGOs in the USA...and discusses fisheries subsidies

Oceana's website reports on a visit by the WTO's Director General, Pascal Lamy, to the headquarters of this organisation.

According to the post in "The Beacon" (a blog in Oceana's website) Mr Lamy participated in a roundtable discussion with ten environmental organisations focusing "on promoting an open and active dialogue about trade and the environment and the WTO’s ability to address both."

The only "trade and environment" subject that appears in the blog's post is fisheries subsidies.

I wonder whether other "trade and environment" subjects, currently negotiated in the context of the WTO's Doha Round, were discussed during the meeting. I am thinking here of the negotiations on the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to "environmental goods and services". Examples of environmental goods and services: waste management tools, catalytic converters, air filters, biofuels, or consultancy services on wastewater management.

Another subject being negotiated under the trade and environment chapter are the relations between the WTO and the so called "Multilateral Environmental Agreements" or MEAs.

Here is the link to the post in Oceana's blog "The Beacon"  on Mr Lamy's meeting with US environmental NGOs.


PAPUA NEW GUINEA: fisheries agreements (and more) in PNG's WTO TRADE POLICY REVIEW

The WTO offers a wealth of information on fisheries issues. The WTO's Secretariat Report on PNG's Trade Policy is an illustration of it.

The Report, dated 12 October 2010 with WTO reference WT/TPR/S/239, includes under Chapter IV "TRADE POLICIES BY SECTOR" a section on "AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, AND FISHERIES".

On Fisheries I noticed that there were a number of paragraphs describing fisheries agreements that PNG maintains with third countries.

"50.      Most tuna is caught by licensed DWFN purse seiners paying access licence fees to catch fish for overseas processing.  Access agreements are in place with China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.  Negotiated annually, they establish allowed vessel numbers and the access fees, which are set under the plan at 6% of the catch's f.o.b. value.  Total access fees average some K 50 million annually. There are currently 140 licensed vessels.  DWFN vessels must meet certain mandatory port requirements.  PNG bans transhipment at sea and requires the use of designated ports for transhipment and inspection."

So, PNG has fisheries agreements with a number of its "neighbours" in the region: China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.

But there is one more fisheries agreement with a Distant Water Nation, namely the U.S.

"54.      U.S. purse seine vessels also fish in PNG's EEZ under a multilateral treaty administered by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), extended for ten years in 2003 (Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States)27.  While the U.S. fleet has declined substantially to well below the cap of 40 vessels, fishing has increased significantly since 2009 because Taiwanese boats that traditionally fished in PNG waters re-flagged to fly the U.S. flag.  The Plan set the TAC for tuna under the U.S. Treaty and the FSM Arrangement (see below) at 20,000 tonnes.  However, in practice it seems that U.S. vessels are not subject to TAC limits or any conservation and management practices, but are monitored by the NFA under the VDS.  As a member of the Palau Arrangement for Management of the Western Pacific Purse Seine Fishery, PNG is committed to reducing the number of DWFN vessels annually by 10%, and to give priority to Palau Arrangement members in granting fishing licences.  The NFA is updating the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) registry of tuna fishing vessels (both domestic and LBFVs) operating in PNG's EEZ to effectively track them using the VDS.  This complies with the latest European regulation, effective in 2011, aimed at improving traceability of all fishery products traded with the EU.  However, the authorities are concerned that the stringent EU requirements of the IUU Regulation will impose compliance difficulties for PNG-located vessels, many of which are foreign, thereby threatening its European exports.  They indicated that such exports are already beginning to be affected, and that PNG needs substantial technical assistance to enhance compliance possibilities as well as to administer such arrangements effectively."

 27 Originally a total of 50 vessels could operate in the EEZs of participating Pacific island nations.  Total fees paid by the U.S. to the FFA are US$21 million, of which US$3 million is from the U.S. tuna industry.  Of this, 15% is divided equally among FFA members, and the rest distributed pro rata based on tuna weight landed in each EEZ.  The U.S. Government pays the other US$18 million to the FFA as aid.

What I found intriguing in this paragraph is the sentence:

"While the U.S. fleet has declined substantially to well below the cap of 40 vessels, fishing has increased significantly since 2009 because Taiwanese boats that traditionally fished in PNG waters re-flagged to fly the U.S. flag"

Did this transfer of vessels from Chinese Tapei to the U.S. include subsidised vessels? Or where subsidies provided by Chinese Taipei to its vessel owners to sell this vessels to the U.S.?

Another piece of information that I found interesting is the discrimination, as far as the price of fishing licences is concerned, between local and foreign fleets fishing when accessing the same fishing grounds and fishing for the same species.

I will discuss this in another post.

USA: fisheries management - increasing catch quotas as an emergency measure... to help fishermen?

A recent press release dated 14 March 2011 by NOAA attracted my attention.

The first paragraph of the press release reads as follows:

"A new emergency increase to the butterfish fishing limit will enable squid fishermen off the northeast, who often catch butterfish unintentionally while fishing for squid, to continue working, while still protecting the butterfish stock."

Further, in another paragraph one can read:

“We’re taking swift action to raise fishing limits and to address the economic challenges faced by fishermen,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Working with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the fishing industry we are taking advantage of the flexibility in the Magnuson-Stevens Act to allow more fishing while still continuing programs to rebuild fish stocks for the long-term benefits they provide.”

So, by raising the "fishing limits" for a by-catch species for squid fishermen, NOAA is helping fishermen to address the economic challenges they are facing.

This is a demonstration that fisheries management can take into account the economic challenges that fishermen have to face. In other words, when setting catch limits fisheries managers can take into account,  in addition to scientific advice, other factors such as the "economic challenges faced by fishermen".

Here is the link to the press release:

And here is a link to an article in the East Hampton Star on this subject:

WTO: fisheries subsidies and Fisheries Management Systems (in the WTO)

On 26 February 2011 I wrote a post on the reporting by the ICTSD on the February informal meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules, where fisheries subsidies were dicussed.

The Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) has recently published on its website the January and Feburary issues of its "FFA Fisheries Trade News".

The article on fisheries subsidies negotiations gives a very detailed account of the work accomplished by negotiators from 7 to 11 February 2011.

One interesting feature of the very detailed information provided by the authors of the article comes at the end of it. It concerns the work done by the two ‘Friends of the chair’ who had to gather WTO Members' views "on what they considered to be the core elements of a fisheries management system (FMS)"

I reproduce hereunder the table published with the article with the synthesis of the work carried by the "facilitators" on fisheries management.

As mentioned by the authors of the article Fisheries Management can become an important part of new WTO rules on fisheries susbidies as the exceptions for developing countries to subsidy prohibitions could be made dependent on fulfilling minimum requirments in the management of fish resources.

Here is the link to the article:


Core/Mandatory Elements
Tools (i.e. indicative, not compulsory)
1) Institutions and legislative
(someone to ‘manage’ the FMS – a FM authority)
2) Stock assessment
Key: data collection to allow with a degree of certainty what one’s resource-base is and what is the level of outtake (i.e. an ‘output’ element)
Trend series to assess resource base
Level of sophistication depends on context
3) Fishing capacity
Count boats and measure composition of fleet (e.g. size), maybe also gear (i.e. an ‘input’ element)
Vessel registry (not necessarily for smallest boats though)
Licences/permits (depending upon fishery)
4) Fishing effort/capacity management
Utilisation of data on stocks and fishing capacity based on: a) input controls; b) output controls
Depending on fishery:
a) input controls (e.g. closed seasons, limits of gear or vessel size/numbers, etc)
b) output controls (e.g. total allowable catch, vessel-specific quotas, etc)
5) MCS – based on different levels of national/ supra-national authority
Key: some form of catch control is necessary to identify some form(s) of violation
Sampling, controls at port, fishing cooperative level, customary level, VMS and/or GPS onboard especially when operations in different zones, etc.
6) Enforcement
Administrative penalties
Indigenous methods (e.g. moral pressure)


MALDIVES: fuel subsidies for fishermen

According to an article posted in the "Haveeru Daily" of the Maldives the governement is providing help to farmers and fishermen to purchase fuel.

According to the article an amount of Rufiyaa 100 million (around 8 million USD° seems to have been earmarked in 2011 for this purpose.

Here is the link to the article.


INDIA: India and WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies

I went recently on a “trawling” expedition, not at sea but on the Internet.

Here is part of the “catch”.

I found an Indian website called “Fish Global” (fishglabl.org). This website is about “Strategies and Preparedness on Trade and Globalisation in India for Fishery Sector”.

In this website there are a few pages on India and the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies. One page relates to the visit that the former Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Mr Guillermo Valles paid to India in early September 2009 “to interact with stakeholders in the field of fisheries to know about the ground realities of the fishing sector in India.”

In the webpage it is stated that:

It is apprehended that new rules on fisheries subsidies, which are being negotiated could seriously jeopardize the future of lakhs of fishermen in India. The new moves would seriously curtail the ability of India and other developing countries to provide support to their artisanal and small fishermen and encourage fishing in their Exclusive Economic Zone.
And further:

It is also feared that final result of some of the proposed condition could lead to the take over of the fishery management function from the member country of the WTO and to hand it over to a third party such as the FAO. This would result in constraining the Government from implementing schemes aimed at supporting fishermen in a sustainable manner as any new subsidy scheme would be permitted only if prior stock assessment has been undertaken which is reviewed by FAO. There is a need for India to retain the flexibility to develop marine infrastructure without being tied to onerous obligations.

Here is the link to the page:


USA: "coastal fishing industry fears rising fuel prices"

The effects of high fuel prices are also being felt in developed countries.

The title of this post is the title of an article published in the "Charlotte Observer" on 8 March 2011.

Here is the link to the article.


PHILIPPINES: tuna fishermen hit by high fuel prices

The Sunstar, a newspaper from the Philippines, reported on 9 March 2011 that some tuna fishermen in General Santos City, the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” are, or are considering, halting fishing operations because of the high oil prices.

According to the newspaper, for some fishing operations, such as handline fishing boats:
“For a single large-ticket hand line fishing expedition in the high seas that lasts for 30 to 45 days, the operational cost could run from P500,000 to P1 million, with Lim saying that fuel eats 60 percent to 65 percent of the amount.”
Here is the link to the article in the SunStar.


BLOG NEWS: Oil Price Information

High oil prices are becoming (once again) a big problem for fishermen around the world.

I have added two "gadgets" to my blog with price information on oil.


WTO: the Trade Negotiations Committee "zeroing" on fisheries subsidies negotiations

At the March 8 « informal meeting » of the Trade Negotiations Committee Pascal Lamy, who is chairing this Committee, provided the Committee with “a brief overview of the latest developments across the board in the negotiations”.

When discussing the developments in the “Rules” chapter, under which new rules on fisheries subsidies are negotiated, Mr Lamy’s statement was the following:

“In the Rules area, area, Members are continuing their consideration of the bracketed and un bracketed issues in the 2008 Chair text and of new proposals tabled, including those on fishery subsidies by Argentina and the ACP Group. These processes have been supplemented by the work of Friends of the Chair, and more recently, by the work of small numbers of delegations in Contact Groups. The aim of all of these processes is to try to generate technically viable options which could then be considered by the Negotiating Group as a whole. Meetings in these different configurations will continue throughout the month of March.

On regional trade agreements (RTAs), the Group has started the review of the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs as required by paragraph 23 of the General Council Decision, with a view to making it permanent. Indications are that Members are generally satisfied with the functioning of the Mechanism and would agree to making it permanent based on a few adjustments to the current text. Discussions on systemic issues which remain dependent on the submission of text-based proposals by Members have also taken place based on a proposal from Bolivia; the group has also discussed the possibility of a forward looking work programme. The Chair is planning further consultations on 14 15 March followed by an open-ended meeting on 17 March.”

So, Members are considering, among other things, proposals on fisheries subsidies. They also seem working on Regional Trade Agreements.

But, are they working on anti-dumping (including “zeroing”) or on horizontal subsidy disciplines?

Here is the link to the WTO page with the statement by Mr Lamy.


CHINA: fuel subsidies for 20 million fishermen

A recent article by the Chinese news agency Xinhua mentioned that the Chinese government will continue providing subsidies to fishermen to purchase fuel for fishing operations.

According to the article “In 2006 alone, the central budget allocated two batches of subsidies at 3.18 billion yuan”.

Converted into USD at current exchange rates this makes around 580 million USD. What it is unclear to me is whether the figure corresponds to one batch only. If this were to be the case then for 2006 the total subsidy amount would be 1160 million USD.

The article goes further indicating that a Ministry of Agriculture official stated that “the ministry will strengthen the implementation of the policy in the country's 12th Five-Year Program period (2011-2015).”

I also wonder whether the Chinese fishermen pay taxes on their fuel.

Here are the links to the article (one to Xinhua and another to the People's Daily online):