By Sharon Atieno

There has been an upsurge in the number of World Trade Organization (WTO) members submitting notifications on their fisheries subsidies.

Of the world’s 26 biggest providers of fisheries subsidies, 17 have provided notifications, with some making their first submission in 20 years, the United States said in a sitting of the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) yesterday.

Several members noted that these notifications were critical for the ongoing WTO negotiations on curbing the most harmful fisheries subsidies, where information on existing programs is an essential precondition for moving the talks forward.

Canada expressed concern that despite the progress being better than it was two years ago, some members have failed to report their subsidies.

China also said it hoped that the transparency requirements would not impose an excessive burden on developing and least developed countries.

The chair of the committee, Ms. Legault Dooley, highlighted the problem of missing subsidy notifications.

“Despite reminders to members to submit their notifications in time, only 69 of the WTO’s 164 members submitted their 2019 notifications by the 30 June deadline,” she said. “72 members still have not submitted their 2017 subsidy notifications, and 60 have still failed to submit their 2015 notifications.”

The March 2019 background note prepared by the WTO Secretariat notes that between 1995 and 2017, the number of members that have failed to make a notification rose sharply, as WTO membership increased, from 25% to 48%, albeit with some intervening fluctuations. 

The chair strongly urged all WTO members to submit their notifications as soon as possible and use the technical assistance available through the WTO secretariat if help was needed in filing the notifications.

The SCM Agreement requires WTO members to submit annual notifications of any subsidies they provide which are specific that is, subsidies given to a particular enterprise or industry, or a group of enterprises or industries –  with the content of notifications sufficiently detailed to enable other members to evaluate the trade effects and to understand the operation of notified subsidy programmes. 

The next meeting of the SCM committee is tentatively scheduled to take place the week of 27 April 2020.