EU demands global fishing rules benefit bloc but hurt poor states | Politics | New


Brussels is calling for government subsidies for trawlers to be reduced in order to tackle harmful overfishing in talks at the World Trade Organization. Eurocrats argue that handing out money for fuel and equipment encourages excessive catches and deploys the world’s marine life. But there is a huge dispute over whether to grant an exemption to allow some countries to continue using subsidies to support their fishing industries.

Developing countries in the Caribbean, Pacific and Africa have accused the EU of double standards as the decades-long feud comes to a head.

The EU’s latest proposal states that rich countries should be allowed to continue subsidizing their fleets because they can afford to develop programs to rebuild declining stocks.

And developing countries will have to make major changes, much to the disgust of their leaders.

Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith has said the EU’s “sustainability” condition is “weak”.

At a meeting last month, she added: “The big funders will easily be able to meet the condition.

“We see this provision as a loophole for major funders and would prefer its removal.”

Marine conversation activists have also criticized the Brussels plans, which they deem insignificant given that the EU is the world’s second-largest provider of fisheries subsidies.

The bloc distributes around 11% of global funds, but remains eclipsed by China at 21%.

Isabel Jarrett, Pew Charitable Trusts, said: “The EU is one of the main providers of harmful subsidies.

“They have fleets in domestic waters, in the waters of other countries, on the high seas: they have a large fishing footprint.”

A 2020 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that the EU has some of the worst cases of overfishing in the world.

The dossier revealed that the Mediterranean and Black Seas had the highest percentage of fish caught at unsustainable levels.

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Ms Jarrett added: “Due to the EU proposals, there is a race to the bottom that has started.

“Developing countries wonder why they should pay more than what the big funders are willing to pay.

“Everyone is trying to get exclusions.”

The EU maintains that its proposals are the best for tackling the huge subsidies given to China’s fishing industry.

In the WTO, China refers to itself as a developing country, which means that it can benefit from the “special and differential treatment” accorded to the poorest and low-income countries.

A 2019 study found that between 2009 and 2018, Beijing handed out huge sums and doubled its nefarious “capacity building grants” to bolster its fishing fleets.

During the same period, it also cut by 73 percent “beneficial subsidies”, designed to conserve resources.

EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Over time, the same rules should apply to everyone.”

He added: “We agree that vulnerable fishermen in developing countries could benefit from some flexibility. But that cannot mean a blanket exclusion. “

A deal on the matter was due to be reached in December 2020, with insiders now believing they are months away from a deal.

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