OECS prepares for Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations in the WTO

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission has begun consultations to develop an OECS brief for negotiations on the rules that govern fisheries subsidies in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The first meeting convened via online web-conference on Friday April 7, 2017 and was attended by senior trade and fisheries officials from OECS Member States and representatives from the OECS Commission’s Trade Policy Unit, Economic Development Policy Unit, Oceans Governance and Fisheries Division, and the Geneva Mission.

Pursuant to the Doha Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6, a representative of the OECS Geneva Mission updated the meeting on current negotiations within the WTO framework to clarify and improve disciplines on fisheries subsidies. SDG 14.6 calls for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminating subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and refraining from introducing new such subsidies by 2020.

OECS Oceans Governance and Fisheries Coordinator, David Robin, presented an overview of the fisheries sector in the OECS to the Member States. Robin outlined specific elements relating to the management and development of the sector, such as key characteristics, policy goals and objectives, the incidence or impact of overfishing and overcapacity, the level and type of subsidies, the existence of bilateral or other arrangements for sharing of EEZ resources, bilateral fishing access arrangements and the nature of fisheries management systems.

The meeting noted the economic, technical and policy-related concerns of the sector that influence the OECS’ position in the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations. Participants also discussed the merits of recent proposals by other WTO members/delegations on the scope of the disciplines that should be applied to subsidy programmes. Implications for the OECS region were considered with a view to determining whether the proposals are aligned with strategic interests.

The consultation provided an opportunity for Member States to indicate their interests and concerns in relation to each element of the Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations. These discussions will assist Member States in ongoing negotiations in the WTO, as well as with other Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Multilateral talks on fisheries subsidies disciplines have been ongoing in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since the launch of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in 2001. WTO Trade Ministers agreed at the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference to work towards a prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, taking into account appropriate Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) for developing and least developed members as an integral element.

WTO members are working towards an outcome/agreement on fisheries subsidies during the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December 2017.

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