NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
“The intensity of your participation throughout the week assures me of your continued commitment to the objective of completing our text-based work by December. Let me recall that the objective to finish the text-based work by the General Council meeting on 14 December is meant to dedramatize the ministers' work in Abu Dhabi [at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference] as much as we can,” the chair said at the 10 November closing session of the week of meetings on fisheries negotiations.
Last month, senior officials meeting in Geneva broadly affirmed the aim of concluding fisheries subsidies negotiations at the 13th Ministerial Conference to be held in late February 2024, with December 2023 as a target for a final negotiating text.
“The focus on finding bridging solutions is very much going to be front and centre in our work going forward,” the chair said. “Starting next week, I will be contacting members on specific issues and in various configurations. We will need to put our heads together to draft bridging language.”
DG Okonjo-Iweala also urged members to intensify discussions to seek convergences: “I am happy to hear that you have a common sense of determination and commitment to conclude the second wave of negotiations by December, and that you are maintaining a very high level of engagement to attain this result.”
“To be able to conclude in December, you need to start reaching convergence on key issues in the coming days. You know that your senior officials sent signals of members' commitment to conclude, that's what we are looking for. It is time for us now to turn those commitments and the political will into fact,” she said.
The DG and the chair also reiterated their call for more members to formally accept the “first wave” Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies adopted last year at MC12. Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard, at the opening session of the week, noted that 52 members have formally accepted the Agreement, which is nearly half of what is needed for the Agreement to come into effect (two-thirds of the WTO membership).
“It is encouraging to hear that some members who have already ratified are reaching out to their neighbors and trading partners to provide assistance and the benefit of experience regarding their own ratification processes. As the DG said, we need all these to materialize to meet our MC13 target,” DDG Ellard said at the closing session.
In addition, the WTO Secretariat is continuing work on setting up the Fisheries Funding Mechanism and meeting with donors and potential beneficiaries, DDG Ellard said, noting that significant new donations are expected soon
Adopted by consensus at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), held in Geneva on 12-17 June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing overfished stocks and ends subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. In addition, the Agreement recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries and establishes a fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement the obligations.
Members also agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.
The full text of the Agreement can be accessed here. 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.