Negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies: Legal Issues and the Case of Overfished Stocks

WTO: Paths Forward
Organised by
25 October 2018

This seminar provided an opportunity for WTO negotiators to reflect on inputs from experts and engage in informal dialogue around some of the fundamental legal questions that will need to be answered by WTO members in shaping an agreement on fisheries subsidies and crafting disciplines on overfished stocks.

In particular, presentations examined the structure and functioning of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) and considered options and issues with regard to the legal form of a possible WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies, including regarding its relationship with the ASCM. A key question in the discussions was how the agreement would be interpreted and applied in practice, in particular in terms of the potential remedies that could be used by successful complainants to induce compliance from other members. The need for additional dialogue on these questions was also underlined.

The event also addressed specific questions related to the possible prohibition of subsidies to the fishing of stocks that are in an overfished condition. Presentations shed light on the implications of various options in the current negotiating text for assessing whether a stock is overfished, including regarding who should be able to make such assessments and on the basis of what type of scientific evidence. They also examined relevant precedents in WTO law and jurisprudence regarding deference to national or regional decisions/determinations outside of the WTO, highlighting how such examples could inform WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies.

Main takeaways

  • Data collected by other international organisations, and in particular the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 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.

Ricardo MELÉNDEZ-ORTIZ, Chief Executive, ICTSD


Charles JULIEN, Counsel, International Trade Practice Group, White & Case LLP


Yaxuan CHEN, Programme Manager, ICTSD

Open discussion

15:40 - 16:00


Ahmed AL-MAZROUAI, Senior Fisheries Officer, FAO


Colette VAN DER VEN, Associate, Sidley Austin LLP


Christophe BELLMANN, Senior Resident Research Associate, ICTSD

Open discussion

Charles Julien is counsel in White & Case International Trade Practice Group and is based in the Geneva office. He advises clients on a wide range of international trade and customs matters including trade remedy proceedings, international disputes and trade and investment negotiations and has particular experience in the Middle East and North Africa and in the European Union.

Mr. Julien has extended experience on trade remedy issues. Over the last 20 years, he has represented foreign producers, exporters, importers and governments in over 150 anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard investigations in more than 15 countries. He has also assisted governments with the drafting of their trade remedy laws and in establishing or restructuring investigating authorities. Furthermore, he has developed advanced trade-remedy risk mitigating strategies and subsidy assessment programs.

Mr. Julien also has wide-ranging expertise on international trade and investment related matters. He supported governments in their accession negotiations to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in preferential trade agreement negotiations; in implementing the WTO Agreements and other international trade agreements and has represented governments in WTO dispute settlement proceedings. In addition, he has advised trade associations and companies on the consistency of government measures with the WTO Agreements and other international trade and investment agreements and used the latter to increase market access opportunities.

Mr. Julien has extensive experience on EU customs law. He supported industry associations in obtaining significant tariff suspensions and quotas in the EU and Turkey and assisted private clients with classification, valuation, rules of origin and labelling issues.

Prior to joining White & Case, Mr. Julien was Counsel with an international law firm in Geneva. Prior to that, he was Legal Counsel with the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry. He represented Egypt in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, including in the fisheries negotiations, and in numerous free trade agreement negotiations. He was also involved in defining the Egyptian trade policy and in the drafting of Egyptian trade remedy regulations. Furthermore, he was responsible for overseeing all trade remedy proceedings conducted by Egypt and coordinating the defence of Egyptian trade interests in foreign proceedings. Previously, Mr. Julien worked for a major European trade law firm in Brussels and Geneva and in the French Mission to the WTO in Geneva.

Mr. Julien is a regular speaker at conferences on international trade and customs law was lecturing on international trade law at the American University in Cairo. 

Yaxuan Chen is a Programme Manager at ICTSD and is in charge of the International Trade Law Programme. In this role, she designs and implements legal capacity building projects, including dialogues and similar events on trade and investment disputes. She also initiates research works on cross-cutting issues relating to international economic law and sustainable development.


Yaxuan’s experience in international trade law includes having worked as a dispute settlement lawyer in the WTO Legal Affairs Division and as a consultant in the WTO Trade in Services Division. Yaxuan also served as a legal intern in the WTO Appellate Body Secretariat. Prior to moving to Geneva, Yaxuan worked on various business projects in India and Australia. Yaxuan earned a Master in International Law and Economics (MILE) from the World Trade Institute (WTI) in Bern and a Master in International Law from Wuhan University in China. Yaxuan also obtained a Certificate in Chinese and American Studies from the Johns Hopkins University–Nanjing University Centre for Chinese and American Studies and Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Economics from Wuhan University in China. Yaxuan is a member of the Chinese bar and is a citizen of China.


Ahmed Al-Mazrouai is a Senior Fisheries Officer in the Policy, Economics & Institutions Branch of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Before joining the FAO in 2018, he worked as Director for Fisheries Development and Director General of Fishieries Resources Development at the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries of Oman, as well as Director for the Marine Science and Fisheries Centre of the ministry. He was also Chairperson of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (2015-2018), Chairperson of the Regional Commission of Fisheries (i.e. FAO Fisheries regional organization, 2015-2017), and is still  Oman's Commissioner in the International Whaling Commission (IWC), among others. He holds a Ph.D. in Biology (Marine Biology and Ecology) from the University of Plymouth, UK, and an M.Sc. in Marine Science and Oceanography from the University of Southern Mississippi, US.

Colette is an international trade lawyer working at the intersection of law, trade policy, and development. She is the founder and director of the Trade for Development Initiative at Sidley Austin – a pro bono program for developing countries – and works as an independent consultant for governments and international organizations. Previously, Colette worked as an associate in Sidley’s international dispute settlement practice, representing governments in WTO disputes. Colette has worked for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia, researched agricultural policy in India, and advised on trade and development questions in Rwanda and Tanzania. Colette holds a J.D. from the Harvard Law School and an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She publishes regularly on issues related to the WTO, trade and sustainable development. Colette is fluent in English, Dutch, French and Spanish.

Christophe BELLMANN is a Senior Resident Research Associate at ICTSD with more than 20 years of experience working on international trade negotiations and policy making from a sustainable development perspective. Mr. Bellmann joined ICTSD in 1998, first as Programme Officer for Outreach and Partnership, then as Director of Policy Dialogues and since 2002, as Programmes Director. Before joining our Organisation, Mr. Bellmann worked for the Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations (SCDO) where he was responsible for activities on multilateral trade and sustainable development issues. Mr. Bellmann has also worked as a Research Associate at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, on the relationship between trade and the environment.

Mr. Bellmann has edited and published a wide range of books, articles and opinion pieces in English, French and Spanish on trade and sustainable development. His work focuses on international trade negotiations, development policies and environmental governance in areas such as agriculture and food security, fisheries, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, rules, regional trade, services and intellectual property rights, He holds an MA in International Relations from the Graduate Institute for International Studies in Geneva. Mr. Bellmann is a citizen of Switzerland.