On 11 May, Ambassador Wills introduced a new draft text based on members’ collective work to secure an agreement on eliminating subsidies for IUU fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing by the end of 2020.
Key revisions in the new draft text include narrowing the flexibilities under provisions for overfished stocks, sharpening the focus of WTO work on subsidies, and further formulation of special and differential treatment.
Ministers are expected to meet virtually on 15 July to conclude negotiations.
The Chair of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies of the Negotiating Group of Rules, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, has circulated a new draft text for a World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies agreement to members. WTO members are aiming to reach an agreement on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies in July 2021.
The WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) and SDG target 14.6 give 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 and “almost daily” meetings in late November, WTO members were unable to finish negotiations by the 14 December informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC). WTO members committed to build on their 2020 progress and reach a resolution in 2021.
On 11 May, Ambassador Wills introduced a new draft text based on members’ collective work that seeks to bring members closer to an agreement. He told delegates the draft text aims to “serve as the basis for work toward a clean text to present to a meeting of ministers on 15 July.” Key revisions in the new draft text include narrowing the flexibilities provided under provisions for overfished stocks, recognizing these are stocks already in the worst condition; sharpening the focus of WTO work on subsidies, not on fisheries management; removing language that may have inadvertently had implications for the operation of international fisheries agreements; and transparency and notification obligations linked to proposed flexibility entitlements.
The new draft text also formulates special and differential treatment (S&DT) as an exemption for subsidies granted by developing and least developed countries (LDCs) to low-income, resource-poor or livelihood fishing and fishing-related activities close to shore, and this exemption could be timebound. On overfishing and overcapacity, the new text proposes an S&DT mechanism where all developing and LDC members could pursue an initial timebound exemption. Developing and LDC members could then seek an extension through a Committee process.
Ambassador Wills reminded delegates that there are “just two months to finish,” and urged them to harness their “shared sense of urgency” to finally agree to “compromise landing zones that will represent the ambitious and balanced outcomes” that the group was mandated to find and to make a “substantial and tangible contribution to the health of our shared oceans.”
WTO members will begin weekly thematic meetings on 24 May. Ministers are expected to meet virtually in July to conclude negotiations. [WTO Press Release] [Chair’s Statement] [Draft Consolidated Text] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on April Meetings]