No deal at WTO on fishery subsidies, negotiations pushed to September

Clouds above the World Trade Organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Hope for a deal on curbing harmful fishing subsidies has faded after the World Trade Organization pushed back its deadline for a deal until September 2021.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had set a deadline of 15 July for achieving an agreement, but that date will now a virtual meeting of ministers to “advance negotiations” on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies, according to a WTO notice.

“Ministers will be guided by a common set of questions and will discuss the way forward for the talks,” the notice said. “Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will sum up ministers' guidance to negotiators on how the talks should proceed from September.”

The talks have been held up by several disagreements, with the structuring of exemptions for developing nations and the parameters of a definition for harmful fuel subsidies among the thorniest.

One advance that has been achieved is an agreement establishing a fund to provide technical assistance to developing nations. The FAO and IFAD will back the fund, which will be geared toward helping developing nations adapt their domestic fisheries systems to comply with the rules that might emerge out of a deal.

In recent weeks, U.S. representatives at the talks and some environmental groups have argued that compromises that may be required to produce a deal could undermine its value.

“It’s critical that WTO members do not sacrifice environmental outcomes for the sake of speed when negotiating a fisheries subsidies agreement,” Isabel Jarrett, manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts campaign to reduce harmful fisheries subsidies, told SeafoodSource. “Any fisheries subsidies agreement reached must contain ambitious sustainability goals that will set our overfished ocean on a path to recovery.”

Photo courtesy of Burnsten/Shutterstock


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