Welcome to Rome; it is a pleasure to see you here. And, thank you for accepting our invitation to join the FAO Expert Consultation on Identifying, Assessing and Reporting on Subsidies in the Fishing Industry.
In recent years, as you are well aware, subsidies have been much discussed in international meetings dealing with fisheries and/or the environment. So it is not surprising that several FAO Members would like to know more about subsidies, particularly as they constitute a controversial group of policy measures. So Governments have a natural interest in finding out just how effective a policy measure they are.
Two years ago, the FAO Committee of Fisheries advised us here at Headquarters to continue to study subsidies in the fishery sector; the Committee asked us to undertake qualitative and quantitative assessment of them and of their impacts.
This sounds deceptively simple. But, as you know, it is not. The number of fisheries to be studied is very large, and - worse - we do not have a proven tool to use. So we set out by trying to develop the tool, a tool that should be sharp yet universal (a type of Swiss knife) and not too demanding to use. The availability of such a tool should make it possible for any government to get a rough idea of the costs and benefits of economic policy measures - including subsidies - applied to the fishery sector.
A rough version of this tool has been developed. The artisan is Lena Westlund. You all will come to know her as Ms Westlund will be here throughout the Expert Consultation. Ms Westlund- and my colleagues in the Fisheries Department - has dedicated much effort to come up with a guide that is both practical and useful. In the course of this year Ms Westlund has spear-headed four prototype studies of the guide; one each in four countries representing somewhat different economies.
One of the countries was Trinidad and Tobago. And, I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Trinidad and Tobago - through Ms Kuruvilla who is with us - for having permitted us to reproduce the report of the prototype study for the benefit of this Consultation.
However, the guide is not all that is needed to quantify subsidies in the fisheries sector, but it is a first step. It needs to be used and then improved based on the accumulated experience of users. But before submitting it to a wider audience to use, we want you to apply your expertise to it and thereby help us improve it.
The guide is not all that is on the agenda. You will also be asked to consider how to develop practical methods for measuring - at least in a qualitative manner - the effects of subsidies on environment, trade and development.
This part of the Expert Consultation takes as its starting point a check list developed by a Dutch economist, Mr Jan Pieters. Mr Pieters presented the check list last month in an OECD workshop in which participants discussed environmentally harmfully subsidies. The OECD secretariat has most kindly agreed to let us use the document - and the associated power point presentation - in this Expert Consultation. For this we are most grateful.
Thus in the second part of the Expert Consultation we want your advise about directions for future work. I expect you will get to this task sometime late tomorrow or early on Thursday. I do not expect you at that time to attempt to finalize that check list for application in fisheries. Of course it would be marvelous if you could, but perhaps it is more realistic for you to discuss its strength and weaknesses and then to formulate your considered view of whether or not we should proceed to work with the check-list as a starting point, and, if so, how we should proceed.
Before I end I should recall that each one of you have been invited here in your personal capacity. As you know in this Consultation you represent nobody but yourselves. The voice of governments we will hear later - when the FAO Committee of Fisheries will review and debate the report of this expert Consultation.
I will probably not be able to spend as much time with you as I would like to. But, I hope to be back at least on Friday afternoon in time for the adoption of your report.
Once more - thank you for taking time to come here and I wish you a successful Consultation.