Statement by Ambassador Shea: WTO Rules Negotiating Group – Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

Meeting of the Heads of Delegation

Statement by Ambassador Dennis C. Shea
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

Geneva, 21 July 2020

Santiago, thank you for your efforts over the last challenging months.

We appreciate your calling us back together today to provide our initial reactions to the “Draft Consolidated Text” you have prepared. We also appreciated your explanations and specific questions, some of which I will briefly address today.

We are pleased to see much of our collective work set out in a single streamlined consolidation. Like others, we welcome the chance to start working in a more organized way and on the basis of an easy-to-read text containing many core elements of an outcome.

We are glad to see texts on IUU fishing and Overfished Stocks as well as an array of prohibitions to address subsidies contributing to overfishing and overcapacity.

By its own terms, this document is a partial text, in many ways a skeleton. Obviously this text does not contain all elements of an outcome—and the textual language in almost all the prohibitions in this draft text will need some clean up and substantive improvements in future meetings at the technical level.

At the same time, there are provisions included that are not widely supported and only confuse our messaging or point in the wrong direction.

We look forward to working with others to develop concrete alternatives, so as to ensure a meaningful agreement at the end of the day.

Here are some examples of missing pieces that we’ve identified:

At the moment, there are only placeholders for the texts we cosponsored on commitments to capping subsidy levels, and on Notification and Transparency.

Transparency and accountability for individual Members’ subsidies are key to the success of any WTO fisheries subsidies agreement and to any real impact on sustainable fisheries. And the more we look at Members’ positions in overfishing and overcapacity, the more convinced we are of the need to negotiate subsidies caps, which can combine transparent and accountable policy space with serious constraints on major subsidizers. As we move forward, it will be important to hold organized discussions on capping on a parallel track with relevant prohibitions.

The draft is also missing a narrowly-crafted and time-limited exception for income support subsidies essential to a recovery following a natural disaster. It’s our impression that a clarification of this kind seems important to even fisheries producers with minimal or no subsidies.

We also take note that the draft’s treatment of Special and Differential treatment is intended only to be a starting point for discussion; suffice it to say that the S&DT texts currently included, utterly undermine any beneficial effect of the draft prohibitions and will not garner a consensus.

But lest there by any doubt, we fully support using this Draft Consolidated Text as a basis for our future discussions, and hope others will join us in efforts to contribute constructively to its improvement in the months ahead.

Your explanation of the consolidation included some questions about the logic of certain language. We appreciate your fresh approach that revealed the need to address these particular issues.

We agree with many of your introductory observations regarding the draft text. These include:

First, the scope language in the first paragraph, which we agree could be seen as ambiguous and unnecessarily limiting; and

Second, the illustrative lists of types of subsidies that lower capital and operating costs, which are generally helpful, but at the moment seem to mix apples and oranges.

We would be pleased to work with others to clarify these important provisions.

We also appreciate some of the changes you made for legal consistency. With a few, perhaps unintended exceptions such as Article 3.3 which creates more confusion rather than less, these mostly appear to improve the text.

On process, we support your proposed program of rigorous activity in the Fall, and the United States stands ready to help bring these negotiations to a successful and meaningful conclusion in December, if others are willing.

We support any meeting configurations that produce substantive improvements and constructive resolutions, and we underscore that Members need to be prepared to work on concrete alternatives.

And in the months ahead, we hope that you, as the Chair, can encourage Members to identify bridging solutions and, where applicable, specific policy choices for presentation to Heads of Delegation.

Thank you.