NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
“This week is of paramount importance if we want to achieve our collective goal of providing our ministers with recommendations at MC13,” the chair said. MC13 will take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi. “This week will be crucial for laying the groundwork for delivering the second wave of negotiations at MC13 — so let's make it count,” the chair added.
Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard also underlined the significant progress needed at this Fish Week. “It will be an important one and a litmus test for our ability to deliver on this important file at MC13,” she said. “Although we have come a long way from the start of our work in February, considerably more bridge building has to take place this week if we are to meet our MC13 target.”
In June 2022, at MC12, WTO members adopted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, which prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, support for fishing overfished stocks, subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. Members also agreed at MC12 to continue “second wave” negotiations with a view to making recommendations by MC13 for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement. Senior officials meeting in Geneva in October 2023 have since then broadly affirmed the aim of concluding fisheries subsidies negotiations at MC13, with December 2023 as a target for a final negotiating text.
At the meeting, the chair presented a new document attempting to bridge members' suggestions on how to adjust the September draft text, particularly for provisions prohibiting subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing and the provisions for special and differential treatment for developing members and least-developed country members. The latest document from the chair draws from members' proposals tabled at meetings in November.
Discussions will also be held during the week to discuss in further detail the other issues in the negotiations. Time will also be devoted to bilateral and other consultations, with a closing plenary session on Friday.
“Many of you asked me to produce something, and what you have before you now is based on what I have heard from you,” the chair said. “I hope we all put this week to very good use.”
DDG Ellard added: “I am confident that Ambassador Gunnarsson's draft document and the way he has organized this week will serve as a good framework for the work that needs to be done.”
DDG Ellard also provided updates on members' formal acceptances of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and the latest contributions to the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism. She said it was encouraging that several members have been in touch with the WTO Secretariat to schedule ceremonies for depositing their instruments of acceptance and that many members are also working tirelessly to formally accept the Agreement by MC13. The list of members that have deposited their instruments of acceptance is available here. Information for members on how to accept the Protocol of Amendment is available here.
DDG Ellard added that the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, established to help developing and LDC members implement the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, is progressing well, with over CHF 11 million in pledges received from members, of which CHF 8.2 million has been formally disbursed to the Fund. Information on the fund is available here.