TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug17/01)
3 August 2017
Third World Network

WTO Rules Chair issues "matrix" paper on fisheries subsidies
Published in SUNS #8514 dated 2 August 2017

Geneva, 31 Jul (Kanaga Raja) - The Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules has issued a compilation matrix of all the textual proposals put forward so far in the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies.

The 39-page compilation document (TN/RL/W/273) was released on 28 July by the Rules Chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, and it aims "to assist Members in analysing and comparing the proposals" put forward by the various proponents to date.

The matrix document includes the following proposals received to date: from New Zealand, Iceland, Pakistan (TN/RL/GEN/186); from the European Union (TN/RL/GEN/181/Rev.1); from Indonesia (TN/RL/GEN/189/ Rev.1); from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries (TN/RL/GEN/192); from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay (TN/RL/GEN/187/Rev.2); from the Least Developed Countries (TN/RL/GEN/193); and from Norway (TN/RL/GEN/191).

In his introduction to the compilation document, the Rules Chair noted that at the 18 July 2017 meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules, he had reported that the proponents collectively had requested that he produce a compilation, in the form of a matrix, of all of the textual proposals that had been received, to assist Members in analysing and comparing the proposals.

"As the Negotiating Group agreed with this request at that meeting, I have now prepared the attached matrix, which has been validated by the proponents," said Ambassador McCook.

Regarding its status, "the matrix is not a Chair text," the Chair emphasised. "It is simply a compilation, topic by topic, of the seven textual proposals now on the table."

Nothing has been added to or subtracted from any of the proposals and no judgements are expressed or implied.

"It is meant to be a purely technical document and is without prejudice to and does not replace any of the proposals, all of which remain before the Group," he underlined.

Ambassador McCook elaborated that "the matrix is intended as a tool, to serve [as] a basis for topical discussions of the proposals when we reconvene in the fall."

Between now and then, said the Chair, "it is my hope that it will help Members to identify areas of greatest and least convergence among the proposals and thus assist us in sharpening our focus as we intensify our work in the lead-up to MC11 (eleventh ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in December)."

Concerning its content, the Chair explained that the matrix is organized into rows representing the topics and sub-topics, and columns representing the proposals.

Thus for each topic or sub-topic, the matrix presents a side-by-side comparison of the corresponding texts from the proposals.

Regarding the topics and sub-topics, he said that these have been derived from the proposals themselves and the aim is that each row in the matrix addresses one main idea.

"Thus, the breakouts are as granular as required to do this, such that similar ideas across different proposals are grouped together."

The way that the topics are broken out has meant that in some cases the text from a given proposal on a particular topic is a partial excerpt from the relevant provision in that proposal, rather than the entire provision.

In addition, for the same reason, in some cases, where a particular provision in a proposal is relevant to more than one topic, it is repeated in each place where it is relevant.

Because of the variation in the structures of the different proposals, some compromises were necessary in categorizing elements of certain proposals. Again, this is entirely without prejudice to the substance, said Ambassador McCook.

In terms of formatting, the Chair said that for ease of reading, the formatting in the matrix is uniform. Thus, the original formatting in each proposal has been conformed to a standardized formatting that is used throughout the matrix.

The only new formatting that has been introduced in the matrix is underlining of certain terms (mainly in the proposals' definitions), simply for ease of reading, said Ambassador McCook.

The main headings outlined in the compilation document include general provisions; prohibitions; standstill; special and differential treatment and technical assistance and capacity-building; transparency; and transitional provisions, institutional arrangements and review.

Among the topics that are highlighted under general provisions are the preamble, definitions, scope, attribution of subsidies, and other legal implications.

Under the heading of prohibitions, the topics listed in the document include chapeau, definition of subsidies, IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing), trans-shipment, beyond national jurisdiction, overfishing/overfished stocks/un-assessed stocks, over-capacity/capacity-enhancing, operating costs, and additional prohibitions to be negotiated.