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New Zealand Seeks To Scale Back Fish Subsidies

6 May 2002

New Zealand would work hard in World Trade Organisation negotiations, beginning today in Geneva, to scale back subsidies to the fishing industry, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

"New Zealand negotiators will be chasing significant gains from subsidy reduction and elimination. We don't want this issue to be the big one that got away."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand was a leading member of the "Friends of Fish" group of countries, which is seeking improvements to WTO rules to deal with the negative effects of fish subsidies on trade, the environment, and sustainable development.

"Globally, the fisheries industry is hooked on subsidies," he said.

"This distorts trade, threatens fish stocks, and impedes the development of poorer nations. New Zealand has a big stake in this issue. Foreign subsidies adversely affect the competitiveness of our fishing industry and increase threats to fisheries stocks in the Southern Oceans, in which we have significant environmental and economic interests."

Worldwide fish subsidies are estimated at US$20 billion a year, or 20% of global fisheries revenues. About 70% of the world's stocks are already fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted. Alongside other "Friends", which include a wide range of developed and developing countries, New Zealand has been seeking improved WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies.

Mr Sutton said that New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States had submitted a paper for today's meeting, which identifies weaknesses in existing WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies and calls for new rules to address distinctive features of the sector.

"This is a 'win-win-win' issue for trade, environment, and sustainable development. It is also an issue on which the views of the government, industry and NGOs coincide. It's a real catch to have fish subsidies on the World Summit for Sustainable Development negotiating agenda, as well as at the WTO."

Ends

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