TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct17/10)
13 October 2017
Third World Network
"Integrated text" now expected on fisheries subsidies
Published in SUNS #8550 dated 11 October 2017

Geneva, 10 Oct (Kanaga Raja) - The proponents of the seven textual proposals that have been put forward in the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies are now expected to jointly produce an "integrated text" reflecting the overlaps as well as the divergences in brackets, the Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules has said.

According to trade officials, at an informal meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules on 6 October, a topic-by-topic discussion on limiting fisheries subsidies was completed by WTO members based on a compilation matrix of the seven proposals.

Another informal meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules has been confirmed for 12-13 October.

In his invitation for the meeting sent out to members on 9 October, the Chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, said that he will invite additional comments to the discussions that took place on 27-29 September and on 6 October.

After this, he intends to provide an assessment of the issues and outline suggestions for next steps.

The Chair also said he plans to share the vertical/integrated text being prepared by the proponents of the seven proposals for the consideration of the membership.

Earlier on 28 July, the Chair had issued a compilation matrix of all the textual proposals put forward so far in the negotiations.

The 39-page compilation document (TN/RL/W/273) is aimed "to assist Members in analysing and comparing the proposals" put forward by the various proponents to date.

The matrix document included 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). (See SUNS #8514 dated 2 August 2017.)

Following the summer break in August, the Negotiating Group met on 11-12 September where Ambassador McCook introduced the matrix and members made general comments on the document and held a topic-based discussion beginning with "General Provisions", the first section in the matrix (see SUNS #8531 dated 14 September 2017).

According to trade officials, another cluster of meetings took place on 27-29 September with the discussions focusing on the core issues including on what types of subsidies are to be prohibited and special and differential treatment for developing countries and the least-developed countries.

At that session, the Chair provided an assessment on the state of play of the various issues raised at the meeting.

According to trade officials, on the issue of prohibitions for subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the Chair had said that there remained a question on the reference points for determining IUU violations.

He said negotiators have "identified some areas where there are still some darkness and need for more work towards achieving clarity."

On the issue of prohibiting subsidies that harm over-fished stock, the Chair had said the question on how to assess stocks in the first place required further reflection.

According to the Chair, Members continue to debate whether to determine that a violation has occurred by using a "negative effects test" or by relying on a negotiated list of types of subsidies believed to contribute to over-fishing.

On prohibition of subsidies that lead to overcapacity, Ambassador McCook said that more engagement was needed as members have determined that it was hard to estimate appropriate levels of fishing capacity.

This also applied to the debate over using a negative effects test versus a listing approach, said the Chair.

According to trade officials, the informal meeting on 6 October was aimed at completing the discussions on the matrix.

At the meeting, the remaining topics in the matrix were taken up including technical assistance for the poorer members, transparency obligations and institutional arrangements.

At the informal meeting, members completed the topic-by-topic discussion based on the matrix, with the Chair saying that the next step is for the different proponents to jointly produce a common text for the membership's consideration.

According to trade officials, Ambassador McCook said that the overlapping positions in the seven proposals have already been observed based on the side-by-side comparison provided by the compilation matrix and the accompanying discussions held on 11-12 September, 27-29 September and 6 October.

Members behind the seven proposals are now expected to jointly produce an "integrated text" reflecting the overlaps as well as the divergences in brackets, the Chair said.

He hoped to have such a text presented at the next meeting (now taking place on 12-13 October) and have the membership reflect on its contents.

Other members would be welcome to insert into this common text additional textual proposals, he added.

If the integrated text will not be ready by then, the Chair has proposed that discussions could be structured around a second reading of the compilation matrix.

The European Union said it was indeed working with the other proponents and had taken note of the substantial points brought up at the meetings.

New Zealand had previously said (at the 27-29 September meeting) that it was working with other proponents to "bring together the seven textual proposals with a view to bridging gaps."

According to trade officials, South Africa, on behalf of the African, Carribean and Pacific (ACP) Group, also a proponent, had clarified (at the 27-29 September meeting) that this process would be a mechanical rendition of the seven proposals into a "vertical text" and that it did not at all constitute a separate negotiation among proponents.

Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, said that it has decided to co-sponsor the proposal by the ACP group.


According to trade officials, the informal meeting on 6 October took up the remaining topics in the compilation matrix such as technical assistance and transparency.

On technical assistance, members debated whether developed countries should be obliged to provide technical assistance to secure the compliance of poorer members to prohibitions on fisheries subsidies.

The proposal from Least Developed Countries (LDC) states that "developed country members shall provide targeted technical assistance and capacity building" upon the request of a developing country or LDC member.

The proposal from the ACP Group says that "developed countries and developing countries in a position to do so shall provide ... targeted technical assistance and capacity building."

The proposal from the Latin American group of countries is only for "an effective scheme of cooperation".

Indonesia has proposed technical assistance to be provided on "mutually agreed terms and conditions."

New Zealand's proposal includes a placeholder where it expresses its openness to consider the provision of capacity building programs.

According to trade officials, the United States, the EU, Korea and Norway said that they could not support an agreement that makes the provision of technical assistance mandatory.

The Chair called on members to view technical assistance and capacity-building as enablers to achieving an agreement on limiting fisheries subsidies.

According to trade officials, on the issue of transparency obligations to notify fishery subsidy programs to the WTO, members debated whether to go beyond the level of transparency already required under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

Members also discussed whether new transparency commitments should be made mandatory or merely one that members should endeavour to meet.

According to trade officials, the US, Iceland, Hong Kong-China, Australia and Thailand said that they supported "enhanced" transparency.

The US said that compliance with transparency provisions should be mandatory for all members.

According to trade officials, Japan, India and Vietnam however questioned whether members would be able to comply with more ambitious reporting requirements.

The EU and the Latin American group of countries have separately proposed a two-tiered approach where more complicated notifications would be welcome on a voluntary basis.

According to trade officials, members also discussed transitional provisions - or when the agreement should be implemented - and "institutional arrangements" such as a periodic implementation review.