WTO working on agreement to eliminate fisheries subsidies

Elimination of government subsidies deemed harmful by the World Trade Organization will be high on the agenda at an upcoming meeting of WTO member states in Argentina.

Member states are hoping to reach a firm agreement on reducing and eliminating fisheries subsidies by December 2017, when they will convene at the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The topic was discussed at a WTO members meeting earlier this month at which members submitted their proposals for subsidies reduction.

Seven proposals were received at that meeting, many of them joint proposals involving multiple nations. All aim to reduce or eliminate subsidies on fisheries that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The proposed rules also oblige member states to refrain from introducing new subsidies that might have such effects.

The proposals exclude subsidies granted for aquaculture and inland fishing, as well as subsidies meant to support small-scale and artisanal fisheries from being eliminated or reduced. The proposals also make provision for granting least-developed countries and developing countries a longer deadline for applying the rules on eliminating maritime subsidies.

The proposals are in line with the 2030 United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development, to which the member states are signatories, and have as their objective “restoring fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics,” according to a WTO document.

Member states of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) submitted one of the seven proposals presented this month. The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, whose members are part of the ACP, “has been studying the various proposals, including the ACP proposal, and has also developed its own position in order to negotiate for an improved ACP proposal,” Susan Singh-Renton, the deputy executive director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, told SeafoodSource.

Stressing that she was responding to questions in her personal capacity and not on behalf of Caricom, Singh-Renton said that Caricom member states typically give subsidies for fuel and gear to the fishing industry. She said that the elimination of subsidies would help “make room” to develop the fisheries of developing states.

“Only those operations considered to be unsustainable are being targeted for reduction/elimination...Caricom is striving to negotiate for provisions that secure livelihoods for developing fisheries and fisheries operating at a sustainable level,” Singh-Renton said. “Some fisheries subsidies, especially those granted by developed countries, have led to situations of excessive fishing capacity and hence depleted fish stocks. These subsidies need to be reduced and eliminated in order to guarantee long-term economic benefits for all.”


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