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Global trade talk dangers

Monika Singh
Friday, December 08, 2017

A BRIEFING paper released by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) titled "Caught in the Net: WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations — Key Concerns for Pacific Island Countries" outlines the dangers that global trade talks on fisheries subsidies have for the ability of the Pacific to manage their fisheries and development.

In a media statement issued yesterday, PANG's trade justice campaigner, Adam Wolfenden, said negotiations had focused on the subsidies that related to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing of species and overcapacity of fishing vessels.

Mr Wolfenden said what they were seeing was rich industrial fishing nations using the guise of banning fishing subsidies to reopen market access and consolidate their market position in the fisheries value chain at the expense of those countries like the Pacific who owned the resources and had the right to achieve their developmental aspirations.

"There is a mandate to ensure that there is 'Special and Differential Treatment' for developing countries but we are not seeing that being proposed in an effective or acceptable way.

"There has to be a taking into account of the needs of developing and least developed countries, so far we are not really seeing that," said Mr Wolfenden.

"The proposal by New Zealand, Iceland, and Pakistan, particularly the 'standstill provision', is an attempt to say to Pacific nations that 'you are not allowed the use of the government supports that we used to build our fishing industry'.

"Again this isn't about development or sustainability, it's about the rich nations making sure the others can't compete against them," he said.

PANG's co-ordinator Maureen Penjueli said the negotiations were not about conservation or sustainability but were stealth attempts to use trade disciplines to attack the management measures of the Pacific Island countries.

"Many proposals seek to undermine the sovereign right of developing countries to manage the resources in their Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZ), as stated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and open up that management to challenge by the major industrial fishing nations," said Ms Penjueli.

Meanwhile, Mr Wolfenden said the ministerial was already being marred by the Argentinean Government's move to ban a large number of non-government organisations (NGOs) from attending despite having their accreditation accepted by the WTO.

"The Pacific Islands and all developing countries must stand strong on their right to develop and not have it taken away from them under the rhetoric of stopping fish subsidies. No outcome next week is better than a bad outcome for development," he said.

The briefing paper comes out ahead of next week's ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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