WTO: NEGOTIATIONS ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES- Belize formally accepts the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

Belize deposited its instrument of acceptance for the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on June 16, 2023. making it the first Central American WTO member and first WTO member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to do so. Ambassador Gianni Avila presented Belize’s instrument of acceptance to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Geneva, Switzerland. Acceptances from two-thirds of WTO members are needed for the Agreement to come into effect.

Belize officially deposited the membership of the Fishery Agreement on June 16, 2023 in Geneva (CH)

Earlier this year, the Director-General met the Prime Minister of Belize, John Antonio Briceño, on the margins of the 44th CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government held in the Bahamas in February.  The two committed to work towards addressing harmful fisheries practices through the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.  Accepting the Agreement reflects a significant step forward in this regard.

DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “I am happy to receive Belize’s formal acceptance of the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement. This first formal acceptance from a Central American and CARICOM member heralds growing global momentum for the urgent implementation of the agreement. This agreement holds paramount importance for Belize, given its reliance on marine exports and tourism, which are vital pillars of the country’s economy and cultural heritage. By supporting the elimination worldwide of harmful fisheries subsidies, Belize sends a strong signal to the international community that it is committed to preserving the health and productivity of the oceans, promoting economic growth, and enhancing livelihoods dependent on the marine sector.”

Ambassador Avila said: “Belize is pleased to deposit its instrument of acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. In doing so, Belize underscores its commitment to the multilateral trading system whilst also contributing to the promotion of environmental sustainability.”

Adopted by consensus at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in Geneva on 12-17 June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies sets new binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks.  In addition, the Agreement recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) and establishes a fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement the obligations.

The Agreement 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.

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 submitted their acceptance of the Agreement is available here.

Information for members on how to accept the Protocol of Amendment is available here.