No more subsidies | Pacific call on WTO for standstill in quantum subsidies

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Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Manoa Kamikamica addressess the 13th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) negotiations that began in Abu Dhabi yesterday on the highly contentious Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. Picture: FIJI GOVERNMENT

“We are not in WTO to make up the numbers,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Manoa Kamikamica as the 13th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) negotiations began in Abu Dhabi yesterday on the highly contentious Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.

“We are here to push for subsidy control, standstill if you like or reduction and that is the fundamental gist of the Pacific offer or the demands of the Pacific and we are all unified behind that position,” Mr Kamikamica said.

Mr Kamikamica was endorsed by the Pacific WTO trade ministers at their Suva meeting last week in preparation for MC13, to be their lead spokesperson at the negotiations.

Speaking to Pacific journalists via zoom in the margins of the negotiations, Mr Kamikamica said for so many years, Pacific waters have been fished by foreign vessels that are subsidised “and of course there’s that threat that at some point in the future, our stock may run out”.

“The push from the Pacific is to demand that there be a management of the subsidies so we are calling on the WTO for a standstill or reduction in the quantum of subsidies, particularly for Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs). These are the largest nations in the world that actually fish globally. There are about seven to eight countries that fall into this category.

“We expect to walk away from here with a clear resolution to that particular issue and of course we are here on behalf not only of our various governments but for the people of the Pacific and we will make sure that our position is well known and very clear in today’s negotiations.”

He said the Pacific region, where more than 50 per cent of the world’s tuna comes from, is a “victim of our own success”.

“We are currently the only sustainable stock in the world so the larger fishing nations are thinking that as long as it’s sustainable, we don’t need to worry and they can do whatever they want. That’s not acceptable to the Pacific.

“We are thinking of future generation, not only us now, and also the world.

“Tuna is an exceptional meat for sustenance and so we are very adamant to make the Fisheries Subsidy Agreement a success, so the fisheries subsidy quantum needs to be addressed.”

Major countries support their fishing industries through subsidies that come in many forms such as fuel subsidies for their fishing fleets and reduced boat building costs.

These subsidies are in turn seen as harmful as they encourage overfishing and environmentally damaging fishing activities such as bottom trawling and distant water fishing.

According to WTO, “government funding for subsidies is currently estimated at $US35billion ($F78b) a year globally, of which some $US22b ($F49b) increases the capacity to fish unsustainably”.

A 2019 study published in Marine Policy named China, the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan as the world’s top subsidisers, according to Reuters.

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