This seminar provided an opportunity for WTO negotiators to reflect on inputs from experts and engage in informal dialogue around questions related to transparency and notification requirements in possible new WTO rules on fisheries subsidies.
The dialogue explored how WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies could help improve the transparency of fisheries subsidies, an area where government support has historically been very opaque, in particular through notification by WTO member states.
Presentations examined how data already collected by international organisations, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in particular, could be relevant with regard to the proposed notification requirements included in the current negotiating text at the WTO. Specifically, the FAO already collects and makes available data on indicators such as the status of fish stocks, fleet capacity, catch, and imports and exports of fisheries products – although there are some limitations to this data that were underlined during the seminar. Discussions highlighted the potential usefulness of this data in the notification and monitoring process of a future WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies. They also identified the need to minimise duplication of data collection and reporting efforts between what is required at the WTO and elsewhere.
The seminar further addressed specific legal questions related to transparency and notification requirements in possible WTO rules on fisheries subsidies. In particular, presentations shed light on the potential challenges that notifying fisheries subsidies could pose, as well as a number of key considerations WTO members will need to take into account as they craft new WTO disciplines in this area. This includes the scope of notifications, their frequency, potential sanctions or incentives, as well as the kind of technical assistance and capacity-building that may be needed.
- Data collected by other international organizations, and in particular the FAO, could be particularly useful for the notification and monitoring process of a possible WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies.
- Key considerations that WTO members need to take into account when addressing transparency and notification requirements in WTO rules include the scope of notifications, their timing, potential sanctions or incentives, as well as technical assistance and capacity-building.
The event built on previous ICTSD dialogues and research on these topics, in particular ICTSD’s recent publication Fisheries Subsidies Rules at the WTO: A Compilation of Evidence and Analysis and the policy brief Building Comprehensive and Effective WTO Rules on Fisheries Subsidies.
The meeting is part of the first set of dialogues of the ICTSD initiative WTO: Paths Forward. Building on the outcomes of the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, this initiative will provide a platform to exchange perspectives and in-depth analysis on possible options for WTO-based processes going forward and into the 12th Ministerial Conference.