January 21 2018
‘Decision on fishing subsidies certain in WTO’s Dec. meet’
28 October 2017

Member nations have basis of agreement: UNCTAD official

An agreement on elimination of ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies is likely to be the only major outcome at the forthcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest decision-making body called the ‘Ministerial Conference’, according to the head of the principal United Nations (UN) agency handling issues related to trade, investment and development.

On what could probably be among the ‘deliverables’ at the WTO’s Ministerial Conference meeting at Buenos Aires (Argentina) in December 2017, Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said: “I cannot quite point at a concrete set of harvests. However, one thing that is increasingly looking certain is the (agreement on) removal of harmful fisheries subsidies.”

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu on the sidelines of an event organised by the industry body FICCI and the non-profit organisation CUTS International, Mr. Kituyi, said, “That (elimination of ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies) could be concretely harvested (at the WTO’s Buenos Aires meet). The last time I checked, they (the WTO member countries) were already discussing, negotiating on the text, which means they have a basis of an agreement. I don’t know of any other major area where there can be, or is, much optimism.”

In May, a UN statement cited fisheries experts from UNCTAD and said, “Harmful fishing subsidies (globally) that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as $35 billion.”

On whether a ‘permanent solution to the issue of public stock-holding for food security purposes’ would be a part of the outcomes as it is an issue of huge importance to developing countries including India, Mr. Kituyi, who was earlier Kenya’s Minister of Trade and Industry, said, “maybe... That could also happen in Buenos Aires.” He, however, did not elaborate.

‘No’ to e-commerce talks

Asked about the probability of introduction of “new issues” like ‘e-commerce’, ‘trade facilitation in services’ and ‘investment facilitation’ into the WTO’s ongoing Doha Round negotiations, he said, the “main argument of many developing countries” currently is that “there is a lot of stuff on the deck already, which needs to be sorted out before you go into new issues.”

He added, “I have seen that many developing countries are not ready to allow e-commerce to be negotiated (at the WTO) at this stage. They want to ensure that e-commerce is an enabler for development, without going into rule-making at the WTO... That is a line they have always had. I saw that coming out of some leading African governments at a joint resolution recently.” A recent WTO statement quoted Susana Malcorra, Argentine minister and Chair of the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC), as saying, “There is life after Buenos Aires.”

The WTO further quoted her as saying that members needed to decide which issues were “ripe” for a decision at the MC and which may not yet be ready, but for which a process could be agreed to put these issues “in motion beyond Buenos Aires,” with an eye toward reaching agreement in the near term. Another WTO statement said, “At a meeting of all WTO members on October 24 to discuss the preparations for the WTO’s MC in Buenos Aires, (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo called for flexibility and pragmatism in order to advance debates ahead of the MC.”

The statement quoted Mr. Azevêdo as saying, “I hope that we can leave Buenos Aires with members committed to strengthening the trading system and with a clear path forward for our future work on as many issues as possible.”



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