69. The Secretariat introduced the Agenda item on the basis of document COFI/2003/8. Attention was drawn to the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report of the Expert Consultation on Identifying, Assessing and Reporting on Subsidies in the Fishing Industry, Rome Italy from 3 to 6 December 2002 (COFI/2003/Inf. 12). The Secretariat also provided information on the recent work of the Fisheries Department on subsidies in fisheries. Guidance was sought from the Committee with regards to the direction and scope of future work. In addition, the Committee was requested to consider whether or not the Fisheries Department should organize a technical consultation on subsidies in the fisheries sector as suggested at the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI.
70. The Committee appreciated the work undertaken by the Secretariat on this issue and noted the Report of the Expert Consultation as well as the conclusions and recommendations contained therein.
71. Reconfirming the importance of the subsidies issue, especially in the light of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (the Johannesburg Summit 2002) and the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference (Doha), the Committee urged FAO to accelerate its work in relation to the impact of subsidies on fisheries resource sustainability and sustainable development. The Committee encouraged FAO to continue its leading role in promoting cooperation and coordination with other relevant intergovernmental organizations such as the WTO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others in the field of fisheries.
72. The Committee agreed that the guide Identifying, Assessing and Reporting on Subsidies in the Fisheries Sector prepared by FAO and reviewed by the expert consultation provides a useful technical tool. Many Members pointed out that the guide was still too theoretical and that FAO should undertake more practical work in the classification and evaluation of subsidies and their impact on the fisheries sector, particularly using case studies based on the framework provided by the guide. Some Members suggested that this work be undertaken in time to be useful for the proposed Technical Consultation. Other Members noted that more time was required to study the guide and suggested that it be included in the discussion at the Technical Consultation.
73. The Committee agreed with the Japanese proposal that FAO should convene a Technical Consultation on this issue to be held immediately after the meeting on IUU fishing and fleet overcapacity in early 2004 in Rome (paragraph 23) in order to receive maximum benefit from participation of fisheries management officials in addition to trade officials. In this Consultation, attention should be given to a practical mandate to consider the effects of subsidies on fisheries resources, such as effects on IUU fishing and overcapacity. Many Members recommended that the Technical Consultation should take into account the impacts of subsidies on sustainable development, trade in fish and fishery products, food security, social security and poverty alleviation, especially in the context of recognizing the special needs of developing countries and small island developing States as recognized in international instruments.
74. The Technical Consultation should also consider the ways the FAO can support the WTO’s work on fisheries subsidies, noting the independence of the WTO timetable.
75. Developing countries agreed on the need to work effectively towards reducing subsidies that affect the sustainability of fishery resources and expressed their concern over the impact that subsidies that were harmful to the international trade of their fishery products could have on their economic development. A large number of developing countries emphasized that, when appraising the role of subsidies in their fishery sectors, careful attention also needed to be given to their impact on the economic and social dimensions of sustainable development and, in particular, on their use as an instrument of economic policy aimed, among other objectives, at stimulating the sustainable growth of their national fishery sectors, at reducing and alleviating the poverty of fishing communities and households and at enhancing food security.