From: Reuters
Published November 30, 2007 02:29 PM

WTO proposal limits fisheries subsidies

GENEVA (Reuters) - New negotiating proposals at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday impose tough limits on subsidies on fisheries, a move that delighted environmentalists concerned about overfishing.

The proposals, from Uruguay's WTO ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes, who is chairing WTO negotiations on "rules" -- dumping, subsidies and fisheries subsidies -- do not propose a blanket ban on all subsidies to fisheries.

But they list a large number of subsidies, including those for the construction of new vessels, and for operating costs of fisheries, including fuel, that would be banned.

Both the European Union and Korea subsidize fuel for fishing vessels.

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Certain subsidies in developing countries, where many poor people depend on fishing for their livelihoods, are exempted from the proposed bans, but countries benefiting from waivers must operate fishery management systems to conserve fish stocks.

The proposals from Valles came in a negotiating text for the Doha round, launched six years ago to boost the world economy and help developing countries grow out of poverty.

WTO delegations agreed on Friday to aim to wrap up the round by the end of next year.

Oceana, which campaigns to protect the world's oceans, said the text from Valles was an important step by the WTO.

"A strong fisheries subsidies agreement would be a hands-down win for the environment," said Courtney Sakai, campaign director for Oceana, which also advises the United States on fisheries subsidies.

"The WTO faces challenges in tackling the issues of subsidies and overfishing, but the potential benefits are enormous," she said. "If the Doha round fails, the oceans will be the big loser.

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephen Weeks)

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