The Negotiating Group Chair, Ambassador Roberto Zapata Barradas (Mexico), at the meeting called on heads of delegation to empower their technical experts to step up efforts to build consensus and bridge gaps in the negotiations so that an agreement can be successfully forged.

"We all know the mandate is to reach an agreement by end-2019 and we all know getting there is not easy," the chair said. "If we are serious about getting this done, we have to move into the uncomfortable zone of compromise and accommodation."

Members responded with support for a shift into full negotiating mode as of January, noting the urgent deadline for an agreement and the importance of ensuring the sustainability of fisheries resources for people's livelihood and food security needs as well as for the protection of the environment. Several members emphasized the need for pragmatism and echoed the chair's call for engagement in a genuine compromise-seeking mode. There were calls to improve compliance with notifications of subsidy programmes in order to facilitate the negotiations, and different views on flexibilities for developing and least-developed country members. A number of members expressed the view that success in these negotiations is vital for the credibility of the organization.

Members expressed support for the recently-agreed work programme for January to July 2019, which comprises monthly week-long clusters of meetings. Each cluster will include a mix of member-organized meetings as well as open-ended meetings of the Negotiating Group, organized around four main topics: subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; subsidies to fishing where stocks are overfished; subsidies contributing to fleet overcapacity and overfishing ; and the cross-cutting issues of special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed members, dispute settlement, institutional issues, and notification and transparency. Four individuals have been selected to act as facilitators for each of these issue areas, to assist members and the chair as the negotiations progress.

In the most recent cluster of fisheries subsidies meetings, from 3 to 7 December, in addition to the work programme, members discussed the draft negotiating texts covering subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and subsidies to fishing where fish stocks are overfished. The four Incubator Groups that had been tasked with generating ideas on pending issues also presented reports, and a technical workshop was held on the role of artisanal and small-scale fishing in developing countries.

Pursuant to the September to December 2018 work programme, which concluded on 7 December, members completed the streamlining of their negotiating texts into a single document, completed the Incubator Group brainstorming process with reports on a total of 18 topics  and held technical sessions on a range of issues before the Group. All of these activities were aimed at developing inputs and paving the way for the resumed full negotiations in 2019.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 14.6 calls for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminating subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and refraining from introducing new such subsidies, by 2020. Target 14.6 also recognizes that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations.

In the 2017 Ministerial Decision on Fisheries Subsidies, members agreed to continue to engage constructively in fisheries subsidies negotiations, with a view to adopting an agreement by the next Ministerial Conference in 2019. In taking the subsequent decision to hold that Ministerial Conference in June 2020, members reaffirmed their commitment to complete the fisheries subsidies negotiations by the end of 2019.




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