Formal World Trade Organization negotiations on ending harmful subsidies to fisheries will recommence in the week beginning 18 January.
Talks hit another impasse earlier this month, with gaps in a text circulated at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, proving too great to overcome.
Consultations between the negotiating parties will continue between now and the recommencement of negotiations, according to Colombian Ambassador to the WTO Santiago Wills.
Answering a question from SeafoodSource at a press conference on 14 December, Wills said the biggest progress of this year was getting a consolidated text in June “which members accepted…for the first time in 20 years” on which all negotiators could work from. The COVID-19 pandemic had limited negotiators' time to work intensively on key issues, Wills said
While Wills said he was disappointed at not concluding the talks in 2020 as planned, Wills said the “momentum is there” to conclude a deal in 2021. The identification of the outstanding issues to be resolved “depends on who you ask,” with different WTO member states having different priorities, according to Wills.
As for the issue of special treatment for developing countries – one of the primary sticking-points of previous rounds of negotiations – Wills said developing countries’ positions at the talks “diverge according to what [issue] is on the table.” Developing nations are “all fighting their own battle” with flexibility to bridge gaps dependent on each country’s stage of development, Wills said.
Tension has emerged between major fishing powers like China, which has sought to be characterized as a developing nation even though it’s the world’s biggest payer of subsidies and operates the world’s largest distant-water fleet – and India, whose fleet mostly fishes in domestic waters.
“All members are determined to bring the talks to a finish,” Wills said. “We should be encouraged by the progress made.”
Photo courtesy of the World Trade Organization