WTO Members Consider New Draft Texts in Second Cluster of Fisheries Subsidies Meetings

WTO members in the Negotiating Group on Rules discussed two new draft texts covering certain prohibitions on fisheries subsidies and exchanged views on other areas of the negotiations at a cluster of meetings held on 25 February to 1 March. The Chair and a range of members remarked on the increased level of engagement but also called for further intensification of efforts to meet the December target for a successful conclusion to the negotiations.

Members discussed Australia’s draft text on prohibiting subsidies for fishing of overfished stocks and New Zealand and Iceland’s draft text on prohibiting subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity of fleets. These drafts cover two of the three areas of disciplines WTO members have committed to delivering by end-2019, the third being the elimination of subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Negotiating Group held consultation sessions open to all members on these three areas as well as on “cross-cutting” issues, such as the scope of new fisheries subsidies rules and how dispute settlement, transparency commitments and procedures to monitor implementation as well as special and differential treatment provisions for developing members would operate under such rules.

Members also conducted their own discussions in bilateral and other formats during the week to examine new approaches and better understand each other's positions. More draft texts are forthcoming, members heard, as delegations continue to firm up, in their meetings with others, new ideas on prohibiting IUU fishing subsidies, whether and how capping subsidies might form part of the final package, and how the dispute settlement process would work, including the remedies it would impose, in view of the sustainability objectives of fishery subsidy disciplines.

At the close of the week-long meetings, the Chair and numerous members noted the high level of activity and the rich engagement, both in the interval since the January cluster of meetings, and during the February meeting week. While this was found heartening, it also was noted that intensified efforts and further text-based discussions to bridge gaps in positions were needed for an outcome to be delivered by the end of the year.

The next cluster of fisheries subsidies meetings will be on 25-29 March.