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TPP countries to ban subsidies only when overfishing is feared

Kyodo

The 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations are now planning to only scrap fishing subsidies that clearly cause overfishing, negotiation sources said Thursday.

The United States has been calling for a general ban on fishing subsidies, but with many other TPP countries disagreeing, the members are arranging a limited ban proposed by Japan, the sources said.

The move comes as ministers of the TPP countries began three-day discussions on tariffs and other key issues that require political decisions so their leaders can announce a broad agreement on the pact at a summit next week.

Japan provides fishing subsidies worth ¥140 billion annually to help stabilize fishermen’s income and secure labor, as well as to organize and maintain ports and fishing boats.

The general subsidy ban, Japan feared, would hinder its rebuilding efforts after the 2011 disasters.

Australia and New Zealand have supported the U.S. proposal, but Canada, which presides over the working group on the environment that deals with fishing subsidies, has proposed a partial ban on those that are clearly linked to overfishing.

During the three-day ministerial meeting, the ministers will seek to make decisions on difficult issues in more than half of the 21 fields covered by the pact, including tariff elimination and intellectual property protection.

Japan’s TPP minister, Akira Amari, is attending the ministerial meeting, chaired by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

On the first day, Amari was scheduled to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Australia and Canada.

The TPP ministers are expected to direct chief negotiators to conclude working-level talks on e-commerce and other fields that are less contentious, while creating a working plan to strike a deal by the end of this year on more difficult areas, such as intellectual property and tariffs.