With less than 100 days left until MC12 and expectations from the wider public for a successful conclusion, heads of delegations will need to come to the next meetings empowered to make difficult decisions and demonstrate flexibility, DG Azevêdo said at the closing meeting of the 2-6 March round of fisheries subsidies discussions in the Negotiating Group on Rules.

The chair said he will be circulating a combined, single text in mid-March as a starting point for the final phase of negotiations. As COVID-19 travel restrictions could make it difficult to organize meetings of senior officials from capitals in the coming months to weigh in on the text before MC12, the Geneva-based heads of delegations will be called upon more and more to lead the process, the chair said.

HoDs meetings have been scheduled for 11-13 March in order to intensify discussions on prohibiting subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, one of the three pillars of the negotiations. The other two are prohibitions on subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and subsidies for fishing of overfished stocks.

All members who took the floor at the meeting expressed their readiness to intensify their engagement in the negotiations and text-based discussions, although some requested that efforts should still be taken to engage capital-based senior officials.

During the week, members also had the opportunity to discuss submissions from the European Union, Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei; the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group; and Brazil on overcapacity and overfishing. They also heard India introduce its revised proposal on special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries (LDCs), and the LDC Group introduce a new proposal covering the three pillars and some cross-cutting issues. Members also discussed China's simulation of possible subsidy reductions based on its own proposal and a facilitator's draft text on IUU fishing.

Based on the mandate fixed under the Ministerial Decision from the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6, negotiators are expected to secure an agreement in 2020 on  disciplines eliminating subsidies for 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.




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