WTO seeks big prize after 20 years of fish talks
- WTO hopes to reach agreement to cut fisheries subsidies after 20 years
- The world spends more than $ 35 billion a year to subsidize fishing
- The deal could be a big step in the fight against depletion of fish stocks
- Developing countries ask for exemptions
GENEVA, July 14 (Reuters) – Negotiators hope that the World Trade Organization will not only deal a heavy blow to overfishing on Thursday after 20 years of efforts, but in doing so will also dispel doubts about its own usefulness.
The world trade watchdog, whose 164 members also disagree on how to settle disputes, has not reached a major trade deal in years, and analysts say it must strike one. this year to maintain its credibility.
The price could be a sharp reduction in widespread fishing subsidies which are widely regarded as the main factor in depleting fish stocks around the world.
WTO says it is “on the verge” of a deal; Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the ministerial meeting, which is being held virtually, “should start us on the path to a deal”, ahead of a November session to seal the deal.
Some delegates are privately more skeptical, saying there is still a gap between views on the allocation of grants between wealthy members such as the European Union on one side and developing countries such as India. the other.
“Many members believe that the biggest funders should reduce their subsidies further, given the global impact of their fisheries, both historic and current, while many developing countries believe the rules should be different for them. “said Alice Tipping of the International Institute. for Sustainable Development.
A confidential proposal presented in May by countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, seen by Reuters, calls for exemptions for members that take less than 2.5% of the world’s catches – which others say would undermine the whole agreement.
While China is the biggest donor, it accounts for just 21% of the $ 35.4 billion that countries and trading blocs around the world, including the EU and Japan, spend each year to support their fleets. , according to a 2019 study by academics. and institutes in Canada, China and the United States. learn more (https://tmsnrt.rs/3AyX2Jh)
Meanwhile, sustainable fish stocks have fallen from 90% of the total in 1990 to less than 66% in 2017, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (https://tmsnrt.rs/3yt6ufv)
A 2018 study by researchers from the United States, Canada and Australia found that much of the fishing in international waters – the “high seas” – would not be profitable without state aid.
“In the waters of the countries where the fleets come from, the stocks are devastated, so they have to go elsewhere and they compete,” said Daniel Pauly, fisheries biologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, expressing concern Thon. “It’s a race to the bottom.”
Tipping says the WTO is closer than ever to an agreement – but that a draft text still has 84 places where there is no agreement yet.
Negotiators say China could help by dropping its opposition to subsidies on the high seas, and the EU could also drop its opposition to fuel subsidies.
Some also want Washington to move on, perhaps dropping its proposal on reducing forced labor – another cost-saving measure that encourages overfishing.
“This is the last chance to strike a deal,” said Rémi Parmentier of Friends of Ocean Action. “Otherwise, there is an existential crisis at the WTO.
Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Kevin Liffey
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