Her full speech is below:



Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to join you today for this session of WTO Chairs Programme Annual Conference on trade, climate change, and fisheries.

At the WTO, we greatly appreciate the contribution of our WTO Chairs to disseminating knowledge about the multilateral trading system among academics and policy makers, particularly in developing countries.

And thank you also to the Knowledge Management Division and all other WTO staff who worked so hard to organize this important conference.

In my remarks today, I will showcase the major accomplishment by our Members in concluding the binding WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies — in particular, how it will improve ocean sustainability, its significance for the multilateral trading system, and what we must do next.

This Agreement is a significant achievement in several ways.

First, by prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies, it delivers on UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6 after more than 21 years of negotiations — the first SDG target fully met.

Second, the Agreement represents the first target met through a binding multilateral agreement.  In fact, it marks only the second time since the WTO's creation that Members have added a new multilateral agreement to our rulebook.  It bears noting that the Agreement reflects a consensus among all of our 164 Members, not simply the view of a majority that imposes its will on the rest of the Members.

This accomplishment shows that our Members still value multilateralism and consensus-based decision making, even though it is challenging and time-consuming. It also demonstrates that even in times of intense geopolitical, global health, and economic tension, Members can still find common ground and achieve success on issues related to the public good, giving us hope that the WTO can deliver on other challenges of global commons, such as climate change.

Third, the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement is the first WTO Agreement with a broad environmental sustainability objective. It will make fishing more sustainable by prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing — or IUU fishing — as well as subsidies to fishing overfished stocks, and subsidies to fishing on the unregulated high seas.  

This action is long overdue:  some studies suggest that up to 50 per cent of assessed stocks are currently overfished, with subsidies playing an outsized role in creating these dire circumstances. Curbing those subsidies is paramount for our ocean, the livelihood of fishers who depend on them, and the food security of hundreds of millions.  Consider what could be accomplished for our planet if we redirected the billions now spent on harmful subsidies to sustainable fishing instead.

In concluding the Agreement, our Members recognized that implementing the new disciplines will require significant additional efforts and resources, particularly by developing country and LDC Members.  To assist them, the Agreement authorizes a voluntary funding mechanism to provide targeted technical and capacity building assistance for implementation of obligations concerning subsidies, notifications and transparency, and fisheries management.  During MC12, the Director-General held a public session introducing the Fund, and both prospective recipients of assistance and donors expressed strong enthusiasm.  We are now setting up the structure for the Fund, and Members have already started making pledges.

Concluding the Agreement was a tremendous achievement. But our mission is not finished.  In particular, these new rules will become operational and start delivering their benefits for ocean sustainability only when the Agreement enters into force.  And this requires two-thirds of WTO Members to deposit their instruments of acceptance with the WTO.  Given the dire state of the ocean, it is truly urgent for all Members to complete their acceptance processes as soon as possible.  We stand ready to help.  

In addition, we have more substantive work to do.  Members agreed to keep working on a second wave of negotiations, to discipline subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing, with a view to recommending further disciplines to our next Ministerial Conference, recognizing as well that appropriate special and differential treatment to developing country and LDC Members should be an integral part.  And they built in a mechanism to incentivize conclusion of these negotiations four years after the present Agreement enters into force.

In sum, we need to get going — the urgency of our work has not abated just because of our tremendous accomplishment last month.  We must enter the Agreement into force as soon as possible and also quickly begin negotiations to build on the existing disciplines to save our ocean and those who depend on them.  To that end, I appeal to you, WTO Chairs, to help us convey to policy-makers and government representatives in your respective regions the benefits of the Agreement as well as the imperative to complete the domestic acceptance procedures and begin the next wave of negotiations.

Thank you.




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