National Taiwan University’s WCP Chair-Holder Held the International Conference on Fisheries Subsidies Agreement

Chinese Taipei - 19 September 2023

Trade topics: Fisheries

As the Phase III Chair-Holder of the WTO Chair Programme (“WCP”), the Asian Center for WTO & International Health Law and Policy (“ACWH”) of National Taiwan University (“NTU”) held an international conference on Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (“FSA”) at NTU on 18-19 September 2023. The conference’s theme was “The Architecture of the 2022 Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: Sustainability, Faithful Implementation and Beyond,” which gathered local and international scholars, government officials, NGOs, industrial representatives, and scientists from Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Nepal, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam to discuss FSA from different perspectives, leading to vibrant and fruitful discussions.

Professor Yueh-Ping (Alex) Yang, NTU’s WCP Co-Chair and ACWH’s director, opened the conference, followed by Dr. Chang-Fa Lo, the Permanent Representative of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu to the WTO and ACWH’s founder. They welcomed all conference participants, emphasized the importance of taking action to protect fish stocks, and stressed the challenges in disciplining fisheries subsidies and implementing the FSA.

In the opening session, WTO’s Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, prepared a pre-recorded speech for the conference, showing her support of the conference and highlighting the importance of the Asian region in FSA’s ongoing development. Dr. Werner Zdouc, the Director of WTO’s Knowledge and Information Management, Academic Outreach, and WCP Division, also prepared a pre-recorded speech, showing his support of the regional WCP meetings in Asia and expressing his anticipation of more regular collaboration between Asian WCP chairs. The Deputy Trade Representative, Jen-Ni Yang, at the Office of Trade Negotiations, also spoke about the importance of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement and the challenges during the negotiation and implementation.

The first day of the conference contained three sessions, including sessions on FSA’s negotiation and sustainability, FSA’s linkage with other international norms and impact, and FSA’s linkage with other WTO rules. From an economic perspective, Prof. James J. Nedumpara, India’s WCP chair, provided comprehensive statistical data showing whether and how the FSA may discipline subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing. Prof. Taleb Awad Warrad, Jordan’s WCP chair, also provided his economic analysis of the welfare impact of fisheries subsidy removal. From a legal perspective, Prof. Tsai-Fang Chen, NTU’s WCP Co-Chair, discussed the WTO’s role in the determination of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing under the FSA.

The first day of the conference further contained a special session featuring the online speech of Director Clarisse Morgan, the Director of WTO’s Rules Division. In the speech, Director Morgan introduced the FSA’s background, process, outcome, and ratification. She also shared the recent studies showing the impact of improper governmental subsidies on fish stock.

FSA’s implementation at the multilateral and national levels and experience sharing. Prof. Henry Gao, WCP’s advisory board member, discussed whether the WTO can discipline subsidies involving China’s state-owned enterprises. Prof. Vu Kim Ngan, Vietnam’s WCP Co-Chair, shared Vietnam’s experience in implementing fisheries subsidy commitments under its free trade agreements. Prof. Riza Noer Arfani, Indonesia’s WCP Chair, shared Indonesia’s challenges in disciplining its fisheries sectors and discussed FSA’s critical role.

Furthermore, Assistant Director Kyeonga Kang from Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Deputy Director Nguyen Thanh Binh from Vietnam’s Institute of Fisheries Economics and Planning, Deputy Director Hsin-Ming Yeh from Fisheries Research Institute, and Mr. Hao Mai from FCF Co., Ltd. also shared their observations of how to enhance fishery protection from governmental, scientific, and industrial perspectives.

The 2-day conference was concluded by the closing remark of Professor Tsai-Yu Lin, NTU’s WCP Chair. After the conference, participants were invited to visit the Fisheries Agency and observe how the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) there operates in monitoring and controlling vessel activities. Participants had robust discussions with the Agency about VMS’s operation in practice and potential functions.

The International Conference on FSA provoked a vibrant and insightful exchange of ideas between the participants, which is attributed to the diversified composition of participants in these events, including participants from a variety of jurisdictions and with different backgrounds, ranging from lawyers, economists, scientists, governments, NGOs, and industries. Conference participants also committed to expanding the discussions in the conference to more specific academic or policy outputs and continuing to build collaborative networks in the long run.