The chair of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, on 24 November submitted a draft agreement to ministers ahead of the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). The draft is based on the collective efforts of WTO members who have intensively worked on the previous version of the text.
“The current draft reflects an honest attempt to find a balance in members’ positions and I think it is the most likely way we can build consensus, without undermining our sustainability objective, and successfully conclude more than 20 years of negotiations,” the chair said.
The chair further notes that all provisions in the draft agreement remain open for discussion if ministers wish to do so. There is language in the draft marked with brackets to represent areas where members’ views continue to diverge and on which ministers’ attention will be warranted. Members are continuing discussions to try to narrow the few differences even further before MC12, which will be held from November 30 to December 3, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We are already one year overdue on the deadline to conclude WTO negotiations as contained in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 14.6. By now, members’ different positions and interests have been thoroughly examined and debated. Moreover, the threat that harmful fishing subsidies pose to our oceans loom even larger every passing year, at the risk also to people’s livelihood and food security,” he said.
“However, we have grounds to be optimistic. An Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, one that will help both the planet and people, is within our grasp. It is also an opportunity to build trust in multilateralism, and the opportunity for WTO members to succeed in negotiating new rules for the 21st century. This will also be a big step for sustainability of the global commons. We have that opportunity next week at MC12 — let’s take it and deliver,” he said.
His full video message is available here. The draft agreement and the chair’s explanatory note are available here.
Under the mandate from the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and the UN SDG Target 14.6, negotiators have been given the task of securing agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment being an integral part of the negotiations.