The World Trade Organization committee to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and banning certain forms of fisheries subsidies to impede overcapacity and overfishing, have agreed to continue working and conclude negotiations as soon as possible,
The chair of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, on 15 February reported on the consultations he held with WTO members since the start of the year on the way forward for the discussions.
The chair told the Negotiating Group on Rules that he had met with delegations and groups bilaterally and in different formats broadly representative of the whole membership. “From these various consultations, I got the general sense that members are interested in using the current period to continue trying to make progress toward concluding the negotiations as soon as possible,” the chair said at the Negotiating Group's informal meeting.
During the consultations, many delegations had pointed to issues in the negotiations that could benefit from further technical clarifications to pave the way for final decisions by ministers, the chair said. Several members also had noted that it was important that further work does not unravel the progress made in the negotiations.
WTO members on 26 November 2021 agreed to postpone the 12th Ministerial Conference, due to start on 30 November and run until 3 December, after an outbreak of a transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus led several governments to impose travel restrictions that would have prevented many ministers from reaching Geneva. Just days before the postponement, Ambassador Wills had submitted a draft agreement of fisheries subsidies to ministers based on the collective efforts of WTO members.
The chair said numerous members had noted in the recent consultations that the draft agreement is the outcome of intensive efforts over a lengthy period and that members should work to reduce, rather than expand, the number of options in the text to make it easier for ministers to take the final decisions whenever they are able to reconvene.
The chair indicated that over the coming weeks he will be convening meetings in various configurations, with a view to advancing work and narrowing differences on a range of issues.
Under the mandate from the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6, negotiators have been given the task of securing agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies.