“We decided to try and do something a little bit unusual, which is to call this ministerial meeting on 15 July. If we could have something that would move us in the right direction and give a strong political message that we need to get on with it, that would be a good thing,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said in an in-person and online meeting about the fisheries subsidies negotiations with representatives of Friends of Ocean Action, Global Fishing Watch, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Oceana, Pew Charitable Trusts, World Wide Fund for Nature, and the Varda Group.

“I think you are crucial to the coming days. You're crucial to what will happen on Thursday and we need your help to really get the message out. We don't want an agreement just for the sake of an agreement. It's not in the interest of anyone and it will not achieve the objective of sustainability. It's comforting to hear that you feel that this is going in the right direction,” the Director-General said. “I want to share a message of thanks and that we need to do more,” she said.

Ambassador Wills likewise extended his appreciation to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the information they have been providing members in the negotiations. He said the latest draft text reflects a genuine attempt to respect the mandate and take into account the views of all delegations.

“I have heard strong views on one or another aspect from the entire spectrum of WTO members. While that means that differences remain, it also suggests that somehow the text does in a sense represent a mid-point on the contentious issues. While the final negotiated outcomes on those contentious issues may be quite different from what is in the current text, it seems to me that the mid-point nevertheless is a good place to start the final process of building convergence on these issues,” Ambassador Wills said.

“There is more work to do, and we are very late with too many missed deadlines. Hence the importance of this week's ministerial meeting in giving the negotiations the political push they need.  I would like to thank you all for your longstanding support to these negotiations and for keeping delegates focused on the goal and the mandate. I do hope that in moving forward, we can continue to count on your support,” he said.

The groups, on behalf of the Stop Funding Overfishing coalition of over 180 organizations, took the opportunity to present their video urging WTO members to conclude the negotiations.

According to arrangements presented by the Director-General and the chair to members on 25 June, the ministerial level meeting will be held in virtual mode, with each minister provided an allotted time to make an intervention. At the end of the meeting, the Negotiating Group chair will provide a summary of the points raised by ministers and the Director-General will present conclusions of the meeting.

Under the mandate from the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6, negotiators have been given the task of securing 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.

For more on the negotiations, view the factsheet here.




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