WTO edges toward agreement on fishery subsidies with latest draft text
A veteran watcher of the World Trade Organization’s negotiations to end harmful subsidies to fisheries is optimistic about the latest draft text, released this week.
Isabel Jarrett, manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ program to end harmful fisheries subsidies an agreement as a meeting of WTO ministers looms later in the month.
“The chair’s latest draft shows us that WTO members are getting very close to reaching a consensus around the agreement language, putting a nearly-clean text fully within reach ahead of the ministerial conference,” Jarrett told SeafoodSource. “We're pleased that elements of the text remain strong, such as prohibitions of non-specific fuel subsidies, subsidies for fishing access agreements, and flags of convenience.”
The talks have been marked by differences over how to structure carve-outs for developing countries, as well as by questions over how definitions of illegal fishing and sustainable stocks would be adjudicated and policed. Jarrett said the latest draft text requires countries to “demonstrate sustainability” in order to be eligible for special and differential treatment.
“[This] shows that [WTO] members are striving to deliver on the commitments they made under [U.N.] Sustainable Development Goal 14, Target 6,” she said. “[However], we’d like to see an outright prohibition on subsidies that fund distant-water fishing, rather than applying the sustainability requirement to that aspect of the agreement.”
The upcoming WTO ministerial meeting will convene in Geneva, Switzerland, on 30 November. The Pew Charitable Trusts has said elimination of all harmful fishing subsidies – estimated to be USD 22 billion (EUR 19 billion) per year globally – would lead to a 12.5 percent increase in fishery biomass by 2050.
Photo courtesy of The Pew Charitable Trusts