The European Union recently deposited its instrument of acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, marking a major development towards the Agreement’s entry into force.
The EU’s instrument of acceptance was presented to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Paris on the sidelines of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Ministerial Council Meeting by Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell of Sweden, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU; European Commission Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis; and European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius.
Speaking in Paris on 8 June, World Oceans Day, DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “I warmly welcome the EU’s formal acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The EU’s acceptance represents the 8th instrument deposited with me, and as we know the EU has 27 member states, all of which are WTO members. With this ratification, we are nearly one-third of the way toward the entry into force of this crucial agreement for our shared ocean. I commend the EU’s support for efforts to restore global marine fisheries to health and long-term sustainability.”
“On this day when the international community comes together to celebrate and protect our ocean, I urge more WTO members to ratify the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies so it can enter into force, and start delivering sustainable benefits for marine fisheries, as soon as possible. I also call on all WTO members to continue and deepen their engagement in the second wave of fisheries subsidies negotiations, so that a successful conclusion can be reached at our 13th WTO Ministerial Conference next February in Abu Dhabi.”
Mr Forssell said: “It’s truly a historic day. After all these years, we have finally been able to end the subsidies for harmful fisheries. So it’s a big day for us and it’s also a big step forward for a better environment and for a better future.”
Mr Dombrovskis said: “The EU played a pivotal role in spearheading this landmark WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, which will turn the tide on harmful practices such as illegal fishing. I am very proud that we are among the first to accept the first-ever multilateral trade agreement to focus on sustainability, which will help to restore fish stocks across the world. It is proof that the WTO can deliver solutions for today’s sustainability challenges and that, as we proceed with WTO reform, it provides a good basis from which to tackle other global challenges.”
Mr Sinkevičius said: “This year the EU is celebrating World Ocean Day by formally accepting the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The Agreement is a crucial step towards ensuring that fisheries subsidies — not only in the EU, but also globally — have sustainability as their core objective. This will help conserve fish stocks that are vital to global food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities. Along with initiatives such as the United Nations’ High Seas Treaty, the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is another major step towards saving our ocean, to which the EU greatly contributes.”
Adopted by consensus at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in Geneva on 12-17 June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies sets new binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks. In addition, the Agreement recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) and establishes a fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement the obligations.
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. Acceptance from two-thirds of WTO members is needed for the Agreement to come into effect.
Members also agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.
WTO | PARIS