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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Negotiating a better deal for the African fish industry
The changing nature of international trade has created new challenges and opportunities for fishing industries in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the many different agreements, frameworks and regulations used make this a complicated process, particularly in terms of exporting to the European Union. New research highlights how African countries can respond to these challenges.
Fishery exports are major sources of government income and employment in sub-Saharan Africa. Their value has doubled in the past decade, and they were worth US$3.2 billion in 2002. The increasing need of the European Union (EU) to import fish (due to declining stocks in its own waters) represents a great opportunity for Africa.
However, African governments face complex negotiations when dealing with the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They also need to comply with strict food safety standards from both the public and private sectors.
WTO negotiations on fisheries are being addressed by the Doha Development Round. One implication of discussions and potential rules on fisheries subsidies in the WTO is a reduction in payment amounts made by the EU to access fish in African waters. Moreover, current proposals under negotiation threaten to make Africa-based fish processors non-competitive on EU markets.
In addition, the trade-related aspects of the Cotonou Agreement between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union are being renegotiated. Until the end of 2007, this provides one-way tariff-free access to EU markets, if fish exports comply with strict Rules of Origin conditions. However, in order to make this duty-free trade relationship compatible with the WTO, the ACP must negotiate new reciprocal (two-way) Economic Partnership Agreements by 2008. In order to do so, the ACP has been divided into six sub-regional groupings, which has effectively reduced its collective bargaining power.
The negotiating position of African countries in these agreements is mainly defensive. They want to preserve their preferential access to EU markets and the fees paid by EU countries to access their fisheries. Because of this, negotiations could have several outcomes:
* African nations may accept continued EU subsidies to their fishing industries, which provide access fees as long as these fees increase over time.
* If negotiations choose to reduce subsidies, this would limit the amount of foreign fishing fleets. These currently hinder the competitive development of domestic fishing fleets and threaten fish stocks.
* The EUs need for fish products for its processing industries and domestic markets means African countries have more power in negotiations than they sometimes recognise.
The current demand for fish products in the EU offers an opportunity for Africas fishing nations. To make the most of this, the researchers recommend:
* using catches from EU fleets in African waters to stimulate processing industries in African countries, which will create employment
* using by-catch (marine species other than those wanted for commercial purposes) for local markets
* negotiating at regional or sub-regional levels, rather than at the level of individual countries, so that stronger countries (such as South Africa) can help weaker countries.
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Impacts/Development, communities and livelihoods
Issues/International trade / WTO