“The sustainability of fisheries is becoming increasingly urgent for nations around the world as deterioration of fish stocks continues unabated,” DDG Ellard said in her opening remarks to the workshop.  “As a continent surrounded by oceans and home to numerous globally important fisheries, as well as many artisanal fishing communities, Asia is responsible for the management and conservation of a significant portion of the world's marine resources.”

“With millions in the region depending directly and indirectly on the marine fishing industry for their livelihoods, it is crucial that we work together toward sustainable management of our ocean resources for the long term,” she added.

Adopted by consensus at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in Geneva in June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies sets new binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world's fish stocks.  The Agreement also recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) and establishes a fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement their obligations.

Two-thirds of the WTO's 164 members must accept the Agreement in order for it to enter into force.  To date, seven WTO members have done so, with Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urging entry into force by the time of the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference in February 2024.

“Achieving entry into force by next February will require hard work and determination by your governments and those of other members,” DDG Ellard said. “Swift ratification across Asia would be a powerful sign of this region's leadership at the WTO, and of its recognition of what the Agreement stands to deliver for the continent, including its coastal WTO members.”

In addition to the workshop, DDG Ellard also held bilateral meetings with Lokman Hakim Ali, Malaysia's Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and Isham Ishak, Secretary General of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, to discuss Malaysia's process for acceptance of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, implementation of the Agreement, and the ongoing “second wave” of negotiations to strengthen disciplines under the Agreement.

The Asian regional workshop was the last in a series of regional technical workshops hosted by the WTO, aimed at enhancing the participation of developing and least developed country members of the WTO in the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies and facilitating their implementation of the Agreement. Fifteen Asian members participated.

DDG Ellard's full remarks are available here.




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