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U.S. calls for global ban on commercial fishing subsidies

U.S. calls for global ban on commercial fishing subsidies

The United States asked the World Trade Organization on Wednesday to include strict disciplines for fishing subsidies in the Doha Development Round.

   “Many WTO members want an agreement on fisheries that is strong, simple and enforceable,” said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab in a statement.

   The United States proposes banning subsidies to enterprises that capture ocean fish commercially.

   “Tough fisheries subsidy disciplines are an essential complement to strong fisheries management programs to ensure that wild fish stocks remain sustainable for future generations,” Schwab said.

   The U.S. proposal also addresses ways to avoid circumvention of the new rules, transparency, periodic review of the agreement’s implementation, transitional arrangements and the potential use of fisheries experts in WTO disputes. Programs that generally do not contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, such as decommissioning of fishing vessels and reduced fishing capacity, would be exceptions to the ban under certain conditions.

   The United States has worked closely with a broad coalition of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, to crack down on fishing subsidies.

   “The proposal by the United States is the most aggressive step yet in the negotiations towards achieving strong rules to control overfishing subsidies,” said Courtney Sakai, campaign director for Washington-based lobby Oceana.

   According to a recent study by the University of British Columbia, global fishing subsidies reach $30 billion a year, with at least $20 billion of that being used to support the ability of fleets to fish longer and farther away at sea. The study further noted that the largest overall subsidizers are Japan ($5.3 billion), the European Union ($3.3 billion) and China ($3.1 billion).