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WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations: Main Issues and Interests of the East African Community

Despite the importance of marine resources for the environment, food security and economic growth, destructive practices such as overfishing has dramatically reduced the size of fish resources worldwide.

In the WTO a number of proposals on fisheries subsidies have been submitted by different member states and groups to discipline certain types of subsidies that are attributed to overcapacity, and illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing amongst the destructive practises. In the drive up to the next WTO Ministerial Conference of December 2017, addressing the complex and long standing issue of fisheries subsidies has been identified among the areas to be considered for decisions at the Conference.

It is in this context that the EAC Geneva Delegates forum met to deliberate on this important issue for the region. During the meeting highlights from country update notes (CUNs) based on stakeholders’ perspectives from EAC member countries and an Issue Note prepared by CUTS International, were presented. In the discussions, the following observations were made:

  • Despite having a vast ocean shoreline, both Kenya and Tanzania generate about eighty five percent of their fisheries production from inland fresh water sources, which could be attributed to lack of capacity to optimally exploit marine fisheries resources in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
  • Currently in the WTO fisheries negotiations, seven proposals have been made, with the latest proposal from Norway seeking to guide Members on the aspect of disciplining IUUs. EAC through its membership of the Africa group, LDC group and ACP group have presented their offensive and defensive positions.
  • Overall the position is that any outcome should provide policy space to developing countries and LDCs, which will enable them to develop their potential to effectively leverage fisheries for economic development
  • There should also be provision of technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries and LDCs that will assist in implementation of agreed disciplines especially with regard to monitoring and enforcement of the disciplines in their EEZs
  • Moreover, well as notification requirements will be governed under Article 25 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures due consideration of the challenges faced by LDCs in this regard should be taken into account
  • The minimum target is to at least achieve the SDG mandate by the next WTO Ministerial Conference and thereafter incrementally address the other fisheries negotiation issues.

Delegates once again expressed their appreciation for EAC Forum, which provides insights from various stakeholders on issues under negotiation, for instance it was interesting to note that Kenya and Tanzania are more dependent on internal fresh water fisheries resources than from their vast EEZs.

One Delegation expressed the need for a technical study that would highlight the specific challenges in the fisheries sector, identifying how best these can be addressed through fisheries negotiations. This is especially useful given that there are many organizations, institutions and government departments dealing with fisheries and related issues, making it difficult to obtain the required information for negotiations. The technical study would ideally source information from all relevant sources thereby providing the necessary information in one document.


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