Tuesday, July 03, 2007
ACP face difficulties in placing fishery products on the EU market
Trade in fish and fishery products constitutes a vital source of income for a large number of ACP countries, especially some smaller countries – e.g. Seychelles, Namibia, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire – for which fish makes up the bulk of their export products.
The fisheries sector shows strong potential for the sustainable development of local fishing communities. Fish is also a highly political commodity. Because European consumers' demand for fish exceeds the stocks available in the waters of the European Union (EU), the EU needs to negotiate access to third countries' stocks. As these third countries are often ACP countries, for which the fisheries sector is of major importance, stakes in the fishing trade are high.
However, the fisheries policy of the European Commission is not consistent with its aim of development cooperation. The Evert Vermeer Foundation and CONCORD are monitoring these inconsistencies under their "EU Coherence Programme". A recent case study on this subject exposed a number of manifest inconsistencies in this area, and has been presented submitted to the European Parliament at an expert meeting.
Fishery products originating from ACP countries have to comply to two sets of standards before they can enter the EU market: these are the "rules of origin", and a set of "sanitary and phyto-sanitary" (SPS) standards. These standards and regulations have led to a number of manifest inconsistencies in the practice of processing and exporting fish and fishery products from the ACP to the European market. For example, the rules of origin require ACP countries to buy and support their own fleets, but they do not have the means to do it.
The sanitary measures introduced by the EU to protect European consumers also act as non-tariff trade barriers, putting considerable constraints on market access for ACP exporters. For example, for one year Seychelles were not allowed to export their swordfish catches to the EU. As a consequence, a large number of fishermen and small and medium-sized businesses in the Seychelles either went out of business or had to change to fishing for species that were less valuable and less suitable for export to the EU.
Another inconsistent aspect is the difference in approach between EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) negotiations and the established fisheries agreements. Both should aim for a more regional approach, as the ecosystem does fit neatly inside national borders. Both arrangements should focus on the link between market access and resource access. Sustaining ACP fisheries while at the same time maintaining the current level of access for EU vessels to ACP waters is simply impossible.
To summarise: if ACP fishermen cannot export their catches, or have no fish left to catch, because of EU vessels fishing in their waters, market access for ACP fisheries becomes a non-issue. The interests of the millions of people who depend on the industry should be taken into account, and sudden shocks to economies and livelihoods should be avoided as far as possible. Capacity-building for local fisheries should be reinforced, partly in order to help them reach EU standards.
Field experts and NGOs advocate that the rules of origin should be applied with more flexibility where needed, in order to benefit processing industries in developing countries.
More information: http://www.eucoherence.org
Source: CONCORD Flash, May 2007
See the Euforic Fisheries Dossier