WTO Members Prepare for Line-by-Line Negotiations on Draft Fisheries Subsidies Text in October
At the fifth Fish Week held on 18-22 September, WTO members expressed broad support for using the draft text on curbing subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing issued earlier this month as the starting point for text-based negotiations, said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland, chair of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, at the end of the week. He intends to dedicate the next Fish Week in October to a collective reading of the text so members can suggest specific textual modifications, he added.
“This was a pivotal week for our process. In this week, we have turned in earnest toward text-based deliberations,” the chair said. “Members increasingly are engaging in the negotiations at full steam. This is great news, as it demonstrates the determination of everyone here to do everything possible to reach agreement by December.”
At the start of the week, the chair introduced, in a plenary meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules, the draft text that he had circulated at the beginning of September. He indicated that the text, which draws from previous negotiating texts as well as proposals of members, is intended to serve as a common starting point for members' discussions, and not as an approximation of a final outcome.
At the closing session of the fifth Fish Week, the chair said: “Given the clear mandate from you to treat the draft text as a starting point for the text-based negotiations, and your apparent readiness to engage in text-based negotiations, I believe it is high time to start collecting your specific suggestions for modifications to the text. I want to ask you to come well prepared to the next Fish Week in two weeks' time with your sleeves rolled up and ready to elaborate your thoughts with specific textual ideas,” he said.
The next Fish Week will be held on 9-13 October 2023.
Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard welcomed members' engagement, which she said “generated a very useful and constructive discussion this week, and has provided a great deal of relevant information for our work going forward.”
“Looking ahead, the upcoming Fish Week in October will be of great importance. It will provide us with an opportunity to hear your specific suggestions for amendments to the text, and how each of you sees how we arrive at landing zones on key issues,” DDG Ellard said.
Steady progress has been made to enter into force the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, with 43 formal acceptances now received from members, DDG Ellard said, reiterating Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's call for members to use the opportunity of the Senior Officials Meeting in October to deposit instruments.
DDG Ellard also updated members on the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, which was established in November 2022 to assist developing members and least-developed members implement the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. DDG Ellard thanked members who have already contributed and disbursed to the fund almost CHF 5 million collectively, noting that there are additional commitments of almost another CHF 5 million which are expected to be received soon.
At the 12th Ministerial Conference, held on 12-17 June 2022 in Geneva, WTO members forged an historic Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. 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. The Agreement will enter into force upon acceptance of its legal instrument by two-thirds of the membership. Under the Agreement, members further agreed to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, particularly on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing, which is the focus of the current draft text before members during the ongoing second wave of negotiations.