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Government Fisheries Subsidies Proposal Positive

20 March 2006

Government Fisheries Subsidies Proposal Positive but has Shortcomings

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) supports in principle the Government's proposal tabled at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to remove subsidies paid to support fishing," said Chief Executive Owen Symmans today.

"The New Zealand fishing and aquaculture sectors operate without subsidies and must trade in international markets at considerable cost disadvantages in comparison with many of our competitors. We are however therefore extremely disappointed that the New Zealand proposal has conceded the removal of subsidies for fishery management purposes and aquaculture. "

"SeaFIC supports the New Zealand Government taking the strongest possible position in WTO negotiations to deal with fish subsidies that distort international trade and support unsustainable fishing. New Zealand's proposal starts correctly from the position that all subsidies that support fishing should be illegal."

Mr Symmans commented that it is very disappointing New Zealand has felt it necessary to compromise its strong position by proposing to exempt some subsidies that enable our competitors to compete unfairly. In particular the New Zealand proposal would exempt subsidies that support fisheries management. He noted that the New Zealand industry pays around $35 million dollars annually for the New Zealand fisheries management system.

"It will irritate New Zealand industry to learn that the Government's WTO proposal will enable our competitors to avoid similar costs and make it impossible for us to seek any redress from the unfair competition that results," Mr Symmans said.

Mr Symmans also commented that the aquaculture sector would be similarly annoyed to learn that the Government's WTO proposal would exempt subsidies to support the aquaculture sector.

"The New Zealand Aquaculture Sector is burdened by legislation that imposes huge transaction costs that makes it all but impossible to obtain new access to coastal space for aquaculture development and is competing against countries providing significant subsidies to their aquaculture sector.

"The WTO negotiations are intensely political and the New Zealand industry is realistic enough to recognize that compromise is inevitable in order to get any progress.

"Nonetheless is disappointing that in making a fundamentally strong proposal to deal with the cancer of subsidies, New Zealand has felt it necessary to make sacrifices that will make it very hard for sectors of the New Zealand industry to get any direct benefit from the proposal," Mr Symmans said.

ENDS

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