WTO Negotiating Chair Releases Draft Text On Fisheries Subsidies

30 November 2007

A new draft text on fisheries subsidies has been released within the WTO Doha Round. Members are now aiming to wrap up talks at the end of 2008, pushing forward the deadline once again.

On 30 November, Guillermo Valles Galmes (Uruguay) -- the Chair of the WTO negotiations on rules, covering anti-dumping and subsidies, including fishery subsidies -- released a draft consolidated text. So far, negotiators in the faltering Doha Round have been considering actual drafts only in the areas of agriculture and industrial goods, and having the rules text represents a clear step forward. However, any agreement on fishery subsidies is contingent on the overall round, with agriculture and industrial goods being the major areas of contention (see Bridges Weekly, 21 November 2007). Negotiators at the WTO had been expecting the new text (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 2 November 2007).

Upon their release, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy commented that the next texts "are ambitious and balanced in all three areas they cover and they will enable negotiators to work in a more intensive manner in the coming weeks."

In terms of fisheries subsidies, the text lists a large number of subsidies that would be banned, rather than imposing a blanked ban on all subsidies. Subsidies covering the construction, operating and fuel costs of fisheries vessels are among those slated to be banned. Developign countries would be allowed some exemptions, but only in case they have functional fishery management systems to conserve fish stocks in place.

Marine conservation group Oceana welcomed the new text. Courtney Sakai, campaign director at Oceana, said "We are pleased to see that the Chair's text on fisheries subsidies contains a strong prohibition on subsidies that increase overcapacity and overfishing, including subsidies for vessel construction, operating costs such as fuel, and fishing port facilities. Furthermore, the text reflects the importance of sustainability and fisheries management criteria for any exceptions to the broad prohibition."

"Now Oceana calls upon the WTO member nations to work together to move the agreement forward. If the WTO adopts this draft text, it would be one of the most significant actions that can be taken towards protecting and restoring global fish populations," Sakai added.

A first discussion of the text is expected to take place from 12-14 December. "These texts are not the end of our negotiating process but only the first step in a new phase involving further intensive discussions within the group," noted Chair Valles Galmes. After Members take a few months to consider the texts, he is likely to produce a revised version.

Additional resources

The draft text is available for download on the WTO website.

ICTSD reporting; "WTO proposal limits fisheries subsidies," REUTERS, 30 November 2007.

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