WTO Members Resume Fisheries Subsidy Negotiations | News | SDG Knowledge Center

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Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have pledged to continue the momentum in the negotiations on fisheries subsidies, with many noting that members must reach a deal as soon as possible. In a first round of meetings for 2021, held in January, negotiations focused on a second revision of the Chair’s consolidated draft text, including discussions on stock assessments, artisanal fisheries and the desirability of authorize non-violation complaints (NVCs) in the context of fisheries subsidies. agreement.

The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) and SDG target 14.6 give negotiators the task of reaching agreement on the elimination of subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to ban some forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing by the end of 2020. In March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis resulted in in-person meetings being suspended, and members used meetings online and written exchanges to continue negotiations. Despite their efforts and their “almost daily” meetings at the end of November, the members of the WTO were unable to complete negotiations by the informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee on December 14. WTO members pledged to build on their progress in 2020 and reach a resolution in 2021.

In January 2021, members took the discussions forward through a first group of meetings. This group included plenary meetings, bilateral meetings and consultations by the chairman of the negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, with more than 20 members. Ambassador Wills called the group of meetings a “constructive start” and praised the sense of urgency shared by members to conclude negotiations.

On stock assessments, members discussed benchmarks, if any, in addition to maximum sustainable yield, that should be used to determine whether a particular fish stock is maintained at a biologically sustainable level and should be exempted from. a ban on capacity building grants. The latest version of the consolidated draft text includes a footnote that lists alternative benchmarks in addition to the maximum sustainable yield that can be used to assess fish stocks. Some members suggested simplifying the layout to include all possible methods that rely on data, rather than explicitly listing different data points. Other members said they would not accept a “watered down by exceptions” fisheries subsidy deal based on fisheries management and stock assessments. Some members cautioned against creating loopholes in the agreement that would allow the use of unreliable stock assessment methods.

On artisanal fishing, members discussed a proposal from Ecuador to define what qualifies as “artisanal fishing” and would therefore be exempt from a ban on subsidies related to overexploited stocks, overfishing and fishing. overcapacity. Some members said they preferred the approach in the Chair’s consolidated text that the territorial seas, defined as 12 nautical miles from the coast, of developing and least developed countries (LDCs) would instead be “excluded. subsidy bans ”under specific disciplines in chapters on IUU fishing, overfished stocks, overfishing and overcapacity. Members supporting the use of the nautical mile approach argued that the territorial seas are where most artisanal fishermen operate and therefore a more pragmatic way to apply exemptions. Other members supported the definition of artisanal fishing, an approach which, as currently proposed, would also apply to artisanal fishers in developed countries.

Members discussed whether to allow NVCs under the agreement on fisheries subsidies. In the context of trade in goods and services, governments can take CNVs to the Dispute Settlement Body under current WTO rules, even when an agreement has not been violated, if a government may show that he was deprived of an expected benefit due to the engagement of another government. action. Most members expressed the view that NVCs should be excluded from the dispute settlement chapter of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement because they believed NVCs to be more relevant in relation to access to fish. market than in discussions of sustainability. Some members, however, said it was too early to discuss the NVCs as the main subsidy bans had yet to be defined. Giving up the possibility of NVC would also limit the scope of the agreement’s application through dispute settlement, they warned.

Regarding special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs, Ambassador Didier Chambovey of Switzerland was appointed in 2020 “Friend of the President” to facilitate discussions on the subject. On the last day of the January cluster, he said that “there is still a lot of work to be done” to develop mutually acceptable solutions.

The Chair intends to convene a second group of meetings from February 15 to 19, 2021. In addition, members will continue to meet between sessions. [WTO Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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