New draft text on the table ahead of WTO’s July ministerial meeting on fisheries subsidies

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to host a ministerial meeting on 15 July to review the Chair’s new draft consolidated text and move negotiations on fisheries subsidies closer to a conclusion.

July 12, 2021—The World Trade Organization (WTO) will hold a ministerial meeting on 15 July to review an advanced negotiating text with the aim to reach an agreement to end subsidies that drive overfishing. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged heads of delegations to remain engaged and flexible to conclude negotiations.

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On 30 June, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, the chair of the negotiating group, tabled a new draft text which sets out areas of agreement and issues that remain to be resolved. The draft consolidated document, along with two key questions released on 2 July by the WTO Director-General, will be the subject of the virtual meeting on 15 July.

“The history of these negotiations has shown time and time again that progress tends to come incrementally, and not through big bangs. So while the changes may look modest perhaps, I share Santiago’s view that they are a very useful attempt at pointing in the direction of more convergence, and that this text can be a good basis for the more detailed and really focused work that we will need to do to conclude the negotiations,” said Director-General Okonjo-Iweala at the presentation of the revised chair text. “In this sense, the text should help ministers to engage on 15 July in a way that will provide us the kind of push and political guidance that we need at this stage to be able to move towards conclusion.”

One-third of fish stocks are already exploited beyond sustainable levels, and governments contribute to the depletion by providing an estimated USD 22 billion every year in harmful subsidies that increase fishing capacity. UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 tasks WTO negotiators with prohibiting fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing and eliminating subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

  July 12, 2021
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