* Negotiators engage in detailed fisheries talks
* Subsidies encouraging overfishing
By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA, Oct 8 Talks to curb fisheries subsidies
have taken on new life, negotiators said on Friday, boding well
for efforts to revive depleted global fish stocks and reach a
deal to open up world trade.
Trade diplomats said that differences in the fisheries talks
at the World Trade Organization remained wide, but countries
were working hard to find ways of bridging the gaps.
"It's very clear to me that all delegations remain highly
committed and have shown a very constructive disposition,"
Trinidad's ambassador to the WTO, Dennis Francis, who chairs the
negotiations on trade rules that include fisheries subsidies,
A diplomat from a large emerging economy commented: "It's a
very good atmosphere. People are asking questions and exchanging
The new mood contrasts with past meetings on fisheries and
other topics marked by deep differences and a reluctance to
The talks turn on ways of curbing the subsidised overfishing
held responsible for the near-collapse of global fish stocks, on
which hundreds of millions of people rely for food, while
finding exceptions for developing countries to allow their
small-scale fishermen to continue to earn a living.
The ambassador for a large industrialised power said many
countries were now focusing on an arrangement that would deal
with the most dangerous subsidies rather than covering every
These would be subsidies that increase the capacity of
vessels or fleets, such as support for construction and
renovation, or facilitate changes in ownership or country.
Australia has called for subsidies for fishing methods that
destroy the underwater environment, such as bottom trawling, to
The environmental activist group Oceana, which advises the
U.S. government, estimates that fisheries subsidies total $20
billion a year -- equivalent to about one quarter of the value
of the world fish catch.
Fuel subsidies allow fishing fleets to trawl the high seas
thousands of miles (kilometers) from home in operations that
would not be economical without the subsidies, it says.
The talks are part of the WTO's Doha round to help poor
countries prosper through more trade while freeing up global
commerce, and mark the first time a specifically environmental
issue has been included in trade negotiations.
Rich countries are leading the charge for strict limits on
subsidies, despite the concerns of their own fishing
communities, but countries such as Japan and China are worried
about the impact on their industrial fishing fleets and
developing countries such as India and Indonesia are suspicious
of moves that could hurt their subsistence fishermen.
The latest WTO fisheries talks took place as part of an
informal process of brainstorming by small groups of ambassadors
hoping to find a way out of the deadlock that has dogged the
more formal Doha negotiations for the past couple of years.
These aim to build trust by looking at options for the whole
range of negotiations, not just the core industrial goods and
agriculture talks that are stuck on U.S. calls for big emerging
states like Brazil, China and India to offer more access.
The start of these small-group talks before the European
summer break led WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to talk of a
new dynamism in the Doha negotiations, launched in late 2001.
Many diplomats in Geneva have been talking of the
possibility of a breakthrough in 2011. But U.S. chief
agricultural negotiator Isi Siddiqui said on Oct. 5 that despite
recent progress the Doha talks could stretch into 2012.