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NZ makes strong stand on fish subsidies at WTO

NZ makes strong stand on fish subsidies at WTO

The Doha Round of WTO negotiations was the right place to begin to level the playing field in the fishing sector by cutting subsidies, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton told a WWF-UNEP ministerial event at the Hong Kong World Trade Organisation meeting that it was as though rich, industralised nations were financing a high-tech mission to seek and destroy the last fish in the sea.

He said that fisheries subsidies rules were often referred to as that very rare thing – a “triple win” issue.

“That is, we have an opportunity to deliver a win for trade, a win for the environment, and a win for development. Ministers recognised this in Doha in 2001 when they singled out fisheries subsidies for urgent attention – and these goals remain just as valid today.”

Mr Sutton said global fisheries subsidies, estimated at a minimum of US$15 billion a year or about 20 per cent of seafood industry revenues, caused large trade distortions.

“No one can argue subsidies on this scale have no impact on trade. Fishers from developing countries face unfair competition from heavily subsidised competitors from rich industrialised nations. Yet the current subsidies rules just aren’t curbing this problem.

“For New Zealand, exports of fish and fish products provide the sector with more than 90% of its revenue, making this our fifth largest goods exporting sector – and it is not subsidised. We face very real challenges to compete with subsidised fisheries production in international markets. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that our industry’s survival is dependent on placing global fisheries on a sustainable footing.”

Mr Sutton said subsidies not only supported over-exploitation, they were a pernicious challenge to even the best-managed fisheries and a threat to those fisheries with room to expand.

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