“Global fish stocks continue to demand responsible stewardship from governments across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges to WTO members' efforts to engage in the negotiations on fisheries subsidies. Yet the crisis has also magnified the urgency of global cooperation on sustainable and shared solutions to the world's most pressing problems — in public health, in the economy, and in our natural environment. Eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies will contribute to healthier oceans and more abundant marine life, making an agreement vital for long-term food security and employment — both of which will be needed more than ever in the aftermath of COVID-19,” Director-General Azevêdo said.

“The difficulties posed by COVID-19 to the negotiations cannot be ignored. However, I am encouraged to hear sustained interest in concluding negotiations on a WTO fisheries subsidies agreement,” Ambassador Wills said. “Before the pandemic, global fish stocks had been in alarming conditions and this remains the case. We have more and more methods at our fingertips to sustain engagement among delegates and I am ready to lend my support. When the moment is right, WTO members must resume negotiations and finish the job we had started nearly 20 years ago. Now more than ever we must work towards the health of our oceans and secure a sustainable use of our marine resources.”

Members had been working to conclude the fisheries subsidies negotiations at the 12th Ministerial Conference. However, this gathering, originally scheduled for 8-11 June 2020 in Kazakhstan, had to be postponed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With in-person meetings at the WTO premises in Geneva suspended since the middle of March, members conducted a written exchange of views on fisheries subsidies proposals and met virtually on other WTO work.

Based on the mandate 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 illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries. Members have been discussing how to move the talks forward in light of the disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.




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