Member countries of the World Trade Organization must reach an agreement on fisheries subsidies
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15 July 2021
We regret that the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, held today in Geneva, failed to reach an agreement on fisheries subsidies, an urgent measure to achieve effective management of our fisheries resources, as well as to ensure global food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities.
At the same time, we recognize that the negotiations are at an advanced stage and that we finally have a draft text. We wish to highlight the commitment and participation of Latin American delegations including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.
We urge all WTO member countries to assume the great responsibility of reaching an agreement soon.
After two decades of negotiations, the deadlines for completing the negotiations and reaching an agreement have been repeatedly missed. Although negotiations officially began in 2001, it was not until the 2017 Ministerial Conference that countries committed to take action and reach an agreement at the next conference, which was to take place in December 2020, but was suspended due to the pandemic. This commitment also responds to the fulfillment of target 14.6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
This target establishes that by 2020 "certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing" should be prohibited, and aims to "eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation."
According to recent estimates, governments spend US$35 billion each year to support their fisheries sectors, of which US$22 billion represent negative subsidies, which promote overfishing. That practice results in alarming data, including that 63 percent of global fish stocks need to be rebuilt and that, according to a 2020 FAO report, 34 percent of them are fished at "biologically unsustainable" levels.
While the agreement is being finalized, more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks. We urge WTO member countries to define without further delay commitments in this regard at the national and regional levels.
For our part, AIDA attorneys will continue to work hand-in-hand with governments to reach an ambitious agreement. It is imperative that said agreement adopt solid rules, eliminate the possibility of creating legal loopholes, and seize the opportunity to establish ocean policies aimed at achieving greater sustainability and guaranteeing the satisfaction of the needs of current and future generations, as well as the conservation of our marine resources.