Preparations for Second Wave of Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations Ramped Up at WTO

WTO members on 23 November ramped up preparations for the second wave of fisheries subsidies negotiations by holding the first of two knowledge building workshops in line with recommendations made by members at their brainstorming retreat in October. Members heard presentations from domestic authorities responsible for implementing the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, as well as from experts of several international organizations. Members also had the opportunity to provide their own reflections.

“At the October retreat, members committed to finish the second wave by the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), with a main focus on overcapacity and overfishing, including special and differential treatment. At the retreat, members also expressed the view that before starting text-based negotiations, it would be useful first to take a step back and engage in some ‘knowledge building’ in the form of technical workshops.  That's why we are here today,” Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard said in her opening remarks.

Panellists at the workshop, who included capital-based representatives of both developed and developing country members, provided an overview of the key disciplines in the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and best practices for and challenges in implementing the Agreement. Members also heard presentations on how discussions on curbing subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, including the issue of special and differential treatment, evolved since the launch of negotiations in 2001.

Members who took the floor after the presentations provided a range of views on how they see the implementation of the Agreement at the domestic level, with developing and least-developed country (LDC) members expressing in particular the challenges they may face. In this light, members took note of progress in making operational the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism for technical assistance as well as support provided by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Many developed and developing country members, moreover, noted the need within each government to coordinate activities across different agencies and the importance of coordination moving forward.

“Despite the challenges they face, I heard members this morning say that they see implementation of the Agreement as an important and valuable step to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies. Also, we heard a lot about good implementation practices that have been undertaken, both from members and from international organization partners,” DDG Ellard said.

“Finally, in the last part of the workshop, the discussion of the historical evolution of the overcapacity and overfishing disciplines, it is clear that the Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR) over the years has remained creative and pragmatic both in terms of process and substance. I hope this part of the discussion has provided good food for thought as each member considers how best to pursue a successful conclusion of the second wave of negotiations, which we all realize are so vital,” DDD Ellard said. “As you know, there is not much time before MC13, so I hope the NGR can continue to be creative and pragmatic.”

The next knowledge building workshop, which will be held in early 2023, will focus on data relating to subsidies and to fisheries, as members requested at the October retreat.