Norway's statement at the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HODs) meeting on 30th September 2021

Ambassadør Dagfinn Sørli, Norway's Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA delivered the following statement at the Informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HODs) meeting on 30th September:

Thank you, DG, for your report, your sobering assessment, and your strong message. Thanks also to the negotiating chairs for their reports and efforts.

The next two months will be critical and show whether WTO members can deliver credible and substantive outcomes at MC12. This is in particular true in the area of fisheries subsidies where we are entering the final lap in a long, hard marathon.  

We have heard many voices at the Public Forum urging us on. Pointing to the importance of the agreement and questioning how we can do anything with any other environmentally related agreement if we can’t do fish subsidies. We still believe that an agreement is doable - doable now - and that the Chair's draft text contains realistic landing zones for a deal.

Getting to a deal will require all sides to compromise, and as you said, DG, negotiating is a fine art. It also reminds me of an old hand in this house that used to say that “negotiations are about adjusting expectations”.

From our perspective a balanced deal should target the largest fishing nations, while providing more lenient disciplines for the smaller fishing nations. To make the deal credible, the top 25 fishing nations in the membership plus all developed country Members will have to adhere fully to the disciplines, where the disciplines for overcapacity and overfishing will be of particular importance. All members in this group will have to ensure and be able to demonstrate that their subsidies do no harm.

At the same time, we need to accommodate the smallest fisheries nations’ request for more lenient disciplines. We support the ACP request for a de minimis exception from the main prohibition of subsidies that can contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, without conditionality.

A de minimis of less than 0,8% of global catch adds up to less than 13% of global catch but covers some 70 developing country members. Looking at the FAO statistics, even with these developing country members increasing their capacity to fish sustainably, for most it will take a long time to exceed the de minimis. For those who do exceed the de minimis as some point in time, they should be able to attain the capacity to demonstrate sustainable fishing, as required by 5.1.1 and transparency commitments.

In our view, a balanced approach to special and differential treatment for overcapacity and overfishing could consist of the following elements:

  • An exception for LDCs,
  • A de minimis for a large group of developing country members as just described,
  • Some transitional time for those larger fishing nations who need it for the purpose of attaining the capacity to demonstrate that their subsidies are sustainable, and
  • A 12 nautical mile exception.

On another point, let me underline that no subsidies - whether from large or small fishing nations, developed or developing - should be granted to fishing and fishing related activities in unregulated areas, that is in the high seas outside RFMOs and EEZs. This is precautionary. This is needed. This is a minimum for our disciplines.

If we finish this marathon together, we will have contributed positively to the sustainability of the world’s fisheries resources and to the sustainability of the livelihood of the people and communities who depend on those resources. Each of us will have to contribute, but we will all benefit in the longer term, and we will all be satisfied that we were able to cross the finishing line.

Before concluding, let me also make a few comments on agriculture, an area of great importance to Norway.

We believe that a result that includes export restrictions, export competition, transparency, and a balanced work program with a realistic level of ambition should be within reach. A realistic level of ambition means that we should not attempt to short-cut negotiations by including numerical targets in a work program.

Furthermore, we have noted with concern that the July text from the CoA-SS Chair does not include any reference to non-trade concerns. Any future-oriented work program must take Member’s sensitivities and non-trade concerns into account.

Finally, let me assure you, Chair, that Norway will continue to engage constructively in our collective search for a way forward towards a balanced outcome, in fisheries subsidies, in agriculture and in any other issue before us. 

Sixty-one days and counting.

Thank you.