WTO fishery subsidy negotiations stumble, drag into 2020
The World Trade Organization’s negotiations to phase out fishery subsidies ended inconclusively before the holiday season.
The most recent round of negotiations, held behind closed doors at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, ended without an agreement once again, after years of efforts. The talks have effectively been ongoing since 2001, but were scheduled to conclude by the end of 2019 to meet the United Nations’ 2020 Sustainable Development Goals.
Negotiators will meet in Geneva in January 2020 with the aim of obtaining deal by the time the next ministerial meeting convenes, in Kazakhstan in June. Progress since July has been “quite modest,” according to Santiago Wills, the chair of the, according to an internal WTO document seen by Reuters.
Negotiators are battling over claims for carve-outs by some big players, including South Korea, the European Union, and China, with frustration among some at the talks with China’s claim to exemptions envisioned for developing nations. China self-declares as a developing nation, but has the world’s largest fishing industry, having heavily subsidized the construction and fueling of distant-water vessels. India, another country fighting changes to the legality of fishing subsidies, has described its subsidies as “very limited” compared to those of other distant-water nations with subsidy programs.
A document introduced into the negotiations by the European Union, seen by Reuters, proposes that port states be appointed the determiners of where illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing has occurred. It’s not clear if such an arrangement would apply strictly to signatories of the Port States Measures Agreement, which China has not yet signed.
Another document, which has drawn support from Indonesia and Japan, calls for subsidies to be eliminated for vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing nation.
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