WTO trade ministers to deliberate fishing subsides to developing nations, China among them

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is holding a top-level meeting on fishing subsidies negotiations today. Both the WTO and the

Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is holding a top-level meeting on fishing subsidies negotiations today.

Both the WTO and the UN have agreed in principle to eliminate subsidies for illegal fishing and for unsustainable overfishing. The goal of today’s meeting is to agree on a formal plan to phase them out. The main obstacle to a deal is the provision on differential treatment for less developed states, some of whom are dependent on subsistence fishing. Two proposals were put forth ahead of this meeting: one which would exempt all developing countries permanently and another which would slowly phase out subsidies for some developing countries but permanently exempt the least developed among them.

China, the world’s most prolific spender on fishing subsidies, insists that it should receive special and differential treatment, allowing it to continue much of its spending. Complicating this demand is the frequent Chinese use of subsidies to encourage fishing in the disputed South China Sea.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala admitted that it is extremely unlikely that any deal will be struck today. Expect continued intransigence on the part of China, but if the second proposal proves popular today, Beijing may be willing to accede to a weaker version.

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