At a ministerial meeting on July 15, 2021, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) pledged to conclude negotiations on fisheries subsidies “soon” and “before the WTO Ministerial Conference begins. December ”. The 104 ministers and heads of delegations who spoke largely confirmed that the current negotiating text can be used as a basis to finalize negotiations, although many highlighted issues that, in their view, still need to be resolved.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that a third of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, up from 10% in 1970 and 27% in 2000. Overexploited and depleted fish stocks threaten the food security and livelihoods of low-income coastal communities, including vulnerable fishermen who must move away from the shore to bring back smaller quantities of fish. According to estimates, governments spend around $ 35 billion a year on fisheries subsidies. Two-thirds of these subsidies go to commercial fishermen. Many subsidies allow vessels to stay at sea and fish in situations that otherwise would not be economically viable. In this context, world leaders agreed to reach an agreement on fisheries subsidies by 2020 as part of the SDGs, a commitment reconfirmed by trade ministers in 2017.
In his opening report, the Chairman of the negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, reminded delegates that the process of negotiations on fisheries subsidies began in 2001 and stressed that since then “many deadlines have been missed ”, including the 2020 deadline set in the SDGs. He stressed that the negotiations “were urgent when they started 20 years ago” and have only become more urgent every year as fish stocks have continued to decline. Ambassador Wills concluded his opening statement by urging WTO ministers to “show your individual and collective commitment to finally fulfill the mandate”.
Among the unresolved questions are how to meet the overall goals of increased ocean sustainability while allowing flexibilities for certain subsidies, including under the heading of special and differential treatment (S&D) for developing and least-developed countries. advanced (PMA). During the July 15 meeting, ministers affirmed the importance of food security and livelihoods for poor and vulnerable artisanal fisheries and also affirmed the sustainability objective of the negotiation.
In conclusion, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told participants that she felt “new hope” that a high-quality outcome that would help build a sustainable blue economy was within reach. hand. She praised the “strong commitment of ministers and heads of delegation to move forward” and bring the negotiations to the finish line, stressing that “this is the closest we have ever come to achieving a result”. Ambassador Wills said the meeting was seeking “political advice to help bring these negotiations to a close quickly” and had received such advice from ministers. He welcomed the commitment to conclude a text “well before our Ministerial Conference” scheduled for the end of 2021.
Delegations will now engage in intensive negotiations on the text to try to bridge the remaining gaps between positions. [WTO Press Release] [WTO Director-General Opening Statement and Chair of Negotiations Statement] [WTO Briefing on Negotiations for NGOs] [Negotiations Factsheet]