TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT

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“Two decades is too long for ending subsidies that finance the relentless overexploitation of our ocean. Governments need to deliver a WTO fisheries subsidies agreement now,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said. “Members have made real progress but we're not there yet. Next month, trade ministers from around the world will meet virtually to look at these negotiations. We must seize this opportunity to narrow the remaining gaps,” she said.

“WTO rules on fishing subsidies will help to prevent the collapse of global fish stocks. We need these rules for the sake of the environment, food security and livelihoods worldwide. It's time to turn the tide in favour of ocean health and a globally sustainable blue economy,” she said.

First launched in 2001, WTO discussions on fisheries subsidies were given new impetus in 2015 when the international community made concluding a WTO agreement a target of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  The WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in 2017 reiterated the call for a fisheries subsidies agreement. Under these mandates, members are working to secure an agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment being an integral part of the negotiations.

“It will take hard decisions from 164 members, but it is doable. We now have a complete negotiating text in front of us to help close the gaps,” Ambassador Wills, the chair said, referring to a new draft text he introduced last month in preparation for the virtual meeting of ministers on 15 July.

He said that the latest text proposes landing zones for an agreement based on members' collective work. Since the new text was circulated, members have been holding nearly continuous meetings in different configurations, dedicated to a specific theme each week.

“Members are working hard getting the text as close as possible to a draft on which ministers can make the remaining political calls. With the finish line so close at hand, I trust members will rise to the occasion and together make a difference. The ocean is calling, and we must not let her down,” the chair said.

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