WTO Members Discuss Draft Texts on Fisheries Subsidies Caps and other Approaches

WTO members in the Negotiating Group on Rules discussed proposals to set caps on fisheries subsidies along with other approaches to limit excessive support for the fishing industry at a cluster of meetings held on 25-29 March. Four draft texts from five members were taken up at the meetings to advance negotiations ahead of the December target to successfully conclude the talks.

Members discussed a joint proposal from the United States and Australia to hold negotiations on member-specific caps on fisheries subsidies expressed in monetary terms and to require, for the larger players, commitments to reduce fisheries subsidies over time. Members also discussed the Philippines' draft text on subsidy caps, Australia's revised text on prohibiting subsidies for fishing that negatively affect overfished stocks, and India's draft text proposing to include fuel subsidies not specifically earmarked for certain industries in the scope of prohibitions.

Like in previous meeting clusters, the discussions during the consultation sessions open to all members were structured around four areas -  illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; fishing of overfished stocks; overfishing and overcapacity of fleets; and cross-cutting issues such as dispute settlement, notification requirements, and special and differential treatment for developing country members and least-developed countries. Members heard that more proposals were forthcoming.

The chair of the Negotiating Group, Ambassador Roberto Zapata Barradas (Mexico), called on members to seek compromises at this stage of the negotiations. Noting that the US-Australia and Philippine proposals rely on submissions of information from members about their respective subsidy programmes as the basis for proposed caps, the chair also reminded members of their recommitment at the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in 2017 to fulfill transparency obligations, which includes notifying subsidy programmes by 30 June this year.