Inroads on Fisheries Subsidies at the latest WTO meeting / by Francisco Blaha

Policymakers in the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Kenya yesterday decided to bring effective discipline in subsidies on fishing to conserve the fish resource worldwide.

Considering that the WTO must play a central role in achieving effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, and that action is urgently needed to control, reduce and eventually eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity; Australia, Argentina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu and OECS Economic Union WTO Members (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines) pushed in a "Fisheries Subsidies Ministerial Statement"  (I think NZ was the main driver, tho)

Their aim is "to continue to seek appropriate enhanced WTO transparency and reporting to enable the evaluation of the trade and resource effects of fisheries subsidies programmes,” according to the statement

The members agreed to reduce subsidies on fishing and recognise the crucial role of fisheries in ensuring food security, employment and livelihoods. 

However, India was not satisfied with the text on fisheries trade that has proposed punitive action for unauthorised fishing, something that many developing countries are not comfortable with given that it goes back on the tentative agreement reached in 2008. This is not surprising form India actually... from all the countries I worked (over 50 so far), none subsidises its fisherydirectly or indirectly via compensations) as much as them, nor have a completely lax internal MCS system... but then, from my experience, I think they bigger and more vital priorities.



Fisheries subsidies contribute to economic losses in the fisheries sector and create serious distortions in global fish markets and push fisheries beyond their realistic economic (and biological) models. I wrote about this here and here. They also produce serious impacts on food security and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries, and that effectively addressing fisheries subsidies will deliver trade, economic, development and environmental benefits.

The other interesting outcome,  not for fisheries but for other commodities is in regards:

Preferential rules of origin for LDCs

The Ministerial Conference adopted a decision that will facilitate opportunities for least-developed countries' export of goods to both developed and developing countries under unilateral preferential trade arrangements in favour of LDCs.

The decision in Nairobi builds on the 2013 Bali Ministerial Decision on preferential rules of origin for LDCs. The Bali Decision set out, for the first time, a set of multilaterally agreed guidelines to help make it easier for LDC exports to qualify for preferential market access.

The Nairobi Decision expands upon this by providing more detailed directions on specific issues such as methods for determining when a product qualifies as “made in an LDC,” and when inputs from other sources can be “cumulated” — or combined together — into the consideration of origin.  It calls on preference-granting members to consider allowing the use of non-originating materials up to 75% of the final value of the product.

The decision also calls on preference-granting members to consider simplifying documentary and procedural requirements related to origin.

Key beneficiaries will be sub-Saharan African countries, which make up the majority of the LDC Group, the proponent for the Nairobi Decision on Preferential Rules of Origin for LDCs. More information on rules of origin is available here; a briefing note on the negotiations for a Nairobi Decision is available here.

Thanks Chris Lord for the tip on this statements.