Nearly 50 delegations, including those speaking on behalf of groups of members and those representing all of the largest marine fishing economies, spoke at the meeting which was convened to gather initial reactions on the draft consolidated document, including views on which areas to focus on, and to agree to a work programme for the rest of the year.

Noting members' indication of willingness to use the draft document as the starting point for the next phase of work, Ambassador Wills said the Negotiating Group would be in continuous negotiating mode starting in September, with four clusters of meetings between September and November serving as check points. The chair recalled that the document is based on earlier work by the facilitators who are helping him with the negotiations and on members' proposals, and is without prejudice to any member's views.

As for the December target to finalize an agreement, delegations supported working toward that target, with some noting, however, the uncertainties occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference, ministers agreed, consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6, 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.

The chair encouraged members to remain flexible and gave assurances that the organization of negotiating work will take into consideration the constraints posed by COVID-19 disruptions. The chair added that he remained confident that members will be up for the task and that the outcome would be invaluable for the WTO and the health of the world's oceans.




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