West Africa Trade Forum: Fisheries Subsidies

The meeting discussed the ongoing WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations. It was based on a background note prepared by CUTS titled “WTO Negotiations on Fisheries: An Overview of Artisanal and Small-Scale Fisheries Issues in the Context of Developing and Least Developed Countries”.

During the deliberations, it was observed that fisheries are a critical source of livelihoods and food security in Africa, particularly in the coastal regions. Moreover, in Africa the majority of fish dependent communities operate on a subsistence level, hence the need for governments to retain policy space in supporting their activities. It is for this reason that the Africa group along with the ACP group are seeking permanent exemption of Artisanal and subsistence fisheries from the disciplines under negotiations in WTO.

It was also noted that the latest Chairs text gives more flexibility to subsidies providing countries – wherein it allows for the subsidies as long as there is a management system to ensure sustainable fishing practices. Such provisions should be balanced with the interests of developing countries and LDCs by granting their demand for exemptions and special and differential treatment. It is never the less important to ensure that the agreement addresses the overarching mandate of the negotiations, which is to eliminate harmful subsidies that have caused unsustainable fishing practices. It is critical to avoid imbalances that will hinder development aspirations of the fisheries’ dependent countries. To this end, Member’s groupings such as the Africa Group and ACP need to maintain a united front including in the July Ministerial meeting that has been scheduled to take forward the negotiations.

In concluding the meeting, Delegates appreciated the West Africa Forum initiative and undertook to share topics and issues for future consideration in the drive up to MC 12.

CUTS International, Geneva is implementing a project to support LDC and Smaller Developing Country WTO delegates to better take advantage of international trade for their development. It particularly supports their informed participation in WTO negotiations in the run-up to the 12th WTO Ministerial conference, while strengthening the links of Geneva missions with their capitals and private sector on the ground.