- Brazil introduced a revised proposal to reduce and limit WTO members’ fisheries subsidies.
- The proposal suggests adjustments to a table of percentage cuts that a member should make based on the size of its fisheries subsidies.
- Brazil also proposed an expanded negotiation timeline with three stages.
World Trade Organization (WTO) members continued discussions on addressing harmful fisheries subsidies throughout October. The 20 October meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules heard a proposal from Brazil on percentage cuts to subsidies, and discussed the issue of proportionality in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing violations.
Ambassador Santiago Wills (Colombia) introduced a draft consolidated text on 25 June, with the aim of concluding negotiations by the end of 2020, in line with SDG target 14.6. Throughout October, the Negotiating Group of Rules held several rounds of meetings to review the text and propose amendments. During a meeting from 7-8 October, the Group discussed whether and how to define what counts as “fish,” whether to allow subsidies in the aftermath of natural disasters or similar events, how to address maritime disputes, and the issue of territoriality.
On 9 October, heads of delegations met and said a revised version of the draft consolidated text would be helpful. Some members supported continued small group discussions to draft compromise language before presenting it to the wider group, while others expressed concern about not being included in smaller meetings. Members expressed different perspectives on the pace of the negotiations, with some calling for more frequent meetings to conclude negotiations by the end of 2020 and others emphasizing challenges with the current pace and level of coordination needed. One member said the current placeholder for text on requiring members to be transparent about their subsidy programmes should now be expanded.
On 20 October, Brazil introduced a revised proposal to reduce and limit WTO members’ fisheries subsidies, which provides for adjustments to a table of percentage cuts that a member should make based on the size of its fisheries subsidies. The proposal would increase the amount of a subsidy programme shielded from cuts from USD 15 million to 25 million. Members falling under the smallest subsidy bracket, who can also demonstrate small catch volumes and short fishing distances, would have the possibility to add an additional USD 5 million, increasing their total cap to USD 30 million. Brazil said the proposal responds to suggestions and questions from members, and will provide a simple way for members to achieve an ambitious outcome.
Brazil also proposed an expanded negotiation timeline with three stages. The first stage would consist of an agreement on modalities (the percentage cuts and implementation process), and the second would consist of members providing negotiations with their baseline subsidy figure to which reductions would be applied. Brazil’s proposal states that big subsidizers who delay their notification would receive a penalty at this second stage. In a third stage, members with larger subsidy programmes would be expected to respond and adjust their figures if questioned. A final compliance and review would follow these stages.
On proportionality in IUU fishing violations, the Group discussed what criteria for due process, if any, a determination of IUU fishing should meet to trigger a subsidy prohibition and whether subsidy prohibitions should be waived when an IUU fishing infraction is minor.
Note: This blog is a re-post of the original posted on the IISD Website.