The World Trade Organization (WTO) has confirmed that negotiators will not reach a fisheries subsidies deal by the end of 2020. Although this means that they will miss the SDG target 14.6 deadline to prohibit the subsidies that drive overfishing, the WTO emphasized that members remain committed to this issue, stating that WTO members aim to build on this year’s momentum to finalize an agreement early in 2021.
“While I am disappointed that we will miss the 2020 deadline, I am not discouraged,” negotiations chair Santiago Wills said after reporting to members at the 14 December informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee at the level of heads of delegations. “The momentum is there and we must not waste it. At this critical juncture, we need members to close the gaps and deliver a meaningful agreement soon.”
Although COVID-19 disrupted the negotiations, suspending in-person meetings, real progress has been made and an agreement is now closer than ever before. A new schedule for meetings in the new year is being finalized, with members considering several opportunities for ministers to convene in 2021.
Keeping the momentum is critical, as an agreement that tackles harmful fisheries subsidies is imperative to keep marine fish stocks healthy and protect the many millions of people who rely on them. This critical issue must be picked up again early next year with renewed motivation to ensure an agreement is reached as soon as possible. The health of our ocean depends on it.