The 24 November draft includes some bracketed text where, in light of members’ diverging views, ministerial input is necessary.
In light of MC12 postponement, delegations are encouraged to “maintain the negotiating momentum” to “close as many gaps as possible,” including on the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
Ambassador Santiago Wills (Colombia), the chair of the World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations, submitted a draft agreement for ministers’ consideration ahead of the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12). In light of COVID-19 restrictions, MC12 has been postponed. A new date has not been set yet.
MC11 and SDG target 14.6 gave negotiators the task of securing an agreement on eliminating subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing by the end of 2020. In March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis resulted in the suspension of in-person meetings, and members used online meetings and written exchanges to continue negotiations. Despite their efforts, WTO members were unable to finish negotiations by the 2020 deadline. They committed to build on their progress and reach a resolution in 2021.
The 24 November draft represents “an honest attempt to find a balance in members’ positions” and “the most likely” path to consensus, said the chair. The draft includes some bracketed text where, in light of members’ diverging views, ministerial input is necessary.
Ambassador Wills expressed optimism, stating that a fisheries subsidies agreement “is within our grasp.” He said it also represents an opportunity to restore trust in multilateralism and “a big step for sustainability of the global commons.”
On 26 November, the WTO announced the General Council’s decision to postpone the Conference indefinitely. In the interim, General Council Chair Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala encouraged delegations to “maintain the negotiating momentum” to “close as many gaps as possible,” including on the fisheries subsidies negotiations. [WTO Press Release] [Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations]