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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a multilateral economic and trade forum. It aims to liberalize trade and investment, eliminate barriers to trade, and provide economic and technical training and education for building capacity in member countries.
APEC has 21 members: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong – China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.
APEC members account for more than 65 percent of the world’s capture fisheries. The consumption of fishery products in the APEC region is 65 percent higher than the world average. Moreover, APEC economies represent nine of the top ten fish producers in the world. The fisheries and aquaculture sector employs approximately 26.2 million fishermen and aquaculture workers, which comprises 60 percent of the world’s total fisheries workforce.
GOVERNANCE AND DECISION-MAKING
APEC operates on the basis of non-binding commitments and open dialogue amongst parties. Decisions are made by consensus and through consultation. There are no treaty obligations required of its participants.
Each year, one of the APEC members hosts to APEC meetings and serves as the APEC Chair. The APEC host economy is responsible for chairing the annual Economic Leaders’ Meeting, selected Ministerial Meetings, Senior Officials Meetings, and other events. The host economy appointment is made on a fixed-term basis of three years.
APEC’s working level activities are guided by APEC Senior Officials from the member countries. These activities and projects are carried out by four high level committees: 1) Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI), 2) Senior Officials’ Meeting Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SOM), 3) Economic Committee, and 4) Budget and Management Committee.
Subcommittees, experts’ groups, working groups, and task forces support the activities and projects led by the high level committees.
The Ocean and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) specifically addresses marine issues. It actively pursues regional capacity building projects and other activities related to issues such as:
Overall, any major initiative or project to address fisheries issues would start at the OFWG level before making its way to the CTI or SOM, and then finally to the secretariat for presentation at the Ocean-Related Ministerial Meeting. Beforehand, the production of technical papers on the subject can be made at the discretion of the OFWG. An official request by an APEC member also has the potential to elevate and prioritize an issue.
HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE OF THE APEC ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
APEC’s membership includes some of the world’s highest subsidizing fishing countries.4
In 2000, APEC published a major survey of the fisheries subsidies provided by its members. This study was conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and produced an early estimate on the size of member countries’ subsidies for capture fisheries.
In terms of reforming fisheries subsidies amongst APEC members, there are several countries that have demonstrated continued support for subsidies disciplines in the WTO and other fora. However, there was also a comparable group of major Asian fishing countries who were opposed to broad fisheries subsidies disciplines at the WTO.
In August 2014, during the fourth APEC Ocean-Related Ministerial Meeting, the ministers outlined a new non-binding framework for closer collaboration on ocean-related challenges. The declaration calls for improved transparency and the reporting of existing fisheries support programs to the WTO, the eventual elimination of programs that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and an abstention from introducing new subsidy programs. This new framework was endorsed by APEC leaders in Beijing in November 2014.
What could the APEC produce/do on fisheries subsidies?
Considering the difference among members related to how fisheries subsidies should be addressed, a unilateral declaration and/or trade agreement is unlikely. A more realistic outcome would be for OFWG to keep highlighting the impacts of negative fisheries subsidies, which will encourage all APEC members to consider fisheries subsidies reforms.
The OFWG can produce technical papers and declarations to inform APEC members and drive overall strategy. More importantly, the OFWG appears to have the capacity to support a reform process, both at the national and regional level.
The following are some other activities APEC could undertake:
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