Addressing the Development Dimension of an Overcapacity and Overfishing Subsidy Discipline in the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

This discussion paper analyzes approaches to new WTO rules on subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing in the context of development priorities.

By Alice Tipping on January 20, 2020

Key Messages

  • There are several approaches to the design of new WTO rules on subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, each of which could have different results vis-à-vis the negotiating mandate's environment and development priorities. 
  • Subsidy rules will need to help ensure fisheries are exploited sustainably if WTO Members are to achieve development priorities like food security and poverty reduction in the short and long terms. 
  • Combining different approaches could help WTO Members to build a set of rules that helps to balance the mandate's environment and development priorities. 

This discussion paper analyzes the different approaches under discussion in the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiations for new rules on subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.

The paper argues that achieving the development priorities articulated in the negotiations mandate—food security as well as broader industrial development—in the long and short terms requires a balance between flexibilities for further subsidization and ensuring that subsidies do not deplete the fish stocks on which food security and successful industrial development depend.

The paper examines how the different proposed approaches balance the mandate's priorities. It then examines how the various proposed approaches relate to the negotiating mandate's environmental and development priorities. It provides a high-level analysis of the value of combining different approaches to find a balance that ensures that rules can contribute to development priorities in both the short and long terms.