Pacific Group Statement at the First Informal Trade Negotiations Committee/Heads of Delegations delivered by H E Barrett Salato, Ambassador of Solomon Islands
World Trade Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland
02 March 2020
Thank you Chair
I make this statement on behalf of the Pacific Group and we align our views with the statements of the ACP and the LDC groups.
Chair, firstly, the Pacific Group thanks you for your comprehensive report and also to the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups for their reports.
Turning to Fisheries Subsidies, the Pacific Group commends the Chair and the Facilitators in assisting members to advance the negotiations. With the Facilitator’s text on Overcapacity and Overfishing, we now have texts on three disciplines. However, much work remains in the little time we have left before MC12 in June to agree on approaches and technical issues as well as the cross-cutting issues which have been less advanced.
For the Pacific Group the two sectors that form the backbone of our economies are tourism and fisheries. Tourism is a very fragile sector, highly susceptible to international economic and other shocks as well as climate change. With any global health threat like coronavirus, tourists do not come to our shores. Fisheries is therefore the only productive sector that many Islands depend on. In fact, fisheries since 2015 remains a priority of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and is also part of the Blue Pacific adopted by Leaders in 2017. The Pacific Group has therefore always underlined the vital importance of the fisheries sector to our economies – in providing food and livelihood security and economic opportunities. In fact, in 2016 tuna caught in the Pacific accounts for over 50% of global catch, and around 60% of that catch is from the waters of the Pacific Islands state. Stock assessments for the Pacific in 2018 indicated that all commercial tuna stocks are in good health. However, most of the Members of our group do not have the capacity to fish because we do not have fishing fleets.
Therefore, as small island states whose EEZs are much bigger than the size of our lands, the fisheries subsides agreement should not repeat the distortions in the agriculture agreement and prevent small countries like us from exploiting our fisheries resources and diversifying our economies. In addition, Members like us that are managing their fisheries resources well, should not be made to pay for the bad behaviour of those that are running down stocks, with heavy subsidies. There has to be some proportionality, ensuring that the Agreement targets those that are causing over-fishing, that is, the large subsidisers and the large industrial fleets and that appropriate policy space must be given to developing Members, especially, small island states that have little to no capacity at present. This would be in line with fulfilling the two dimensions of the SDG 14.6 and MC11 mandates – namely, strong disciplines for harmful subsidies and appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries. This would also ensure that the SDG 14.6 also delivers on the SDG 14.7 which is to support the fisheries development in small island developing states and LDCs.
Chair, the Pacific Group remains committed to working with Members to deliver a meaningful Agreement on fisheries subsidies at Nur Sultan.
Chair, on Agriculture, the Group continues to support discussions on reduction of trade distorting domestic support and finding solutions to public stockholding and special safeguards mechanism.
On Development issues, the Pacific group urges Members for constructive discussions on the G90 proposals particularly those proposals that support economic diversification and industrialisation and the situation of LDCs.
Finally Chair, in terms of process, our Group expresses concerns on the clashes in meetings this week between the RNG and the HODs and the GC. Small delegations like us do not have sufficient staff to cover parallel meetings and we hope that in future such clashes will be avoided.