Under the new work programme, a mix of bilateral, small group and plenary meetings will be held in the weeks of 13 January, 3 February, 2 March, 30 March, 20 April and 11 May, with the aim of concluding an agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies at MC12 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on 8-11 June.

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 14.6 sets a deadline of 2020 for eliminating subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries.

The Negotiating Group chair, Ambassador Santiago Wills (Colombia), said a meeting of senior officials, suggested earlier by some members, could be convened in April depending on progress in the negotiations, and that heads of delegations in Geneva would also be gathered from time to time to help bridge divergences.

Members also had the opportunity to comment on working papers from six facilitators which outline the issues in the negotiations, and suggest texts for some of the more advanced areas such as subsidy prohibitions for IUU fishing and overfished stocks. The facilitators, WTO delegates tasked with assisting the chair, clarified that these documents were presented wholly on their own responsibility in the hope that they would help move the negotiations forward, without prejudice to members' original proposals and positions. The chair urged members to carefully study the documents before the resumption of talks in January and to consider them as tools to find convergence in the negotiations.

Members also heard from proponents of two new documents. The European Union presented its proposal circulated on 5 December that would add “port states”, or members with ports where fishing vessels dock, as entities that could determine when IUU fishing has occurred, triggering the subsidy prohibition. The second document is a revision to an earlier proposal prohibiting fishing subsidies to vessels that are not flying the flag of the subsidizing member. The revision adds two new co-sponsors (Japan and Indonesia) and a provision for a possible transition period for certain existing flagging arrangements.




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