WTO DG fixes July ministerial meeting on over-fishing rules

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a press conference remotely on the annual global WTO trade forecast at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland March 31, 2

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Trade Organization plans to host a ministerial meeting on July 15 where she hopes an agreement can be reached on cutting fisheries subsidies after 20 years of talks, a document showed on Monday.

Governments including major subsidisers China, the European Union and Japan spend billions of dollars a year to prop up their fishing fleets, contributing to over-fishing that is decimating wild stocks. The WTO was tasked by world leaders in 2015 with striking a deal to roll them back but missed a key deadline last year.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took charge of the global trade watchdog in March, has made fisheries a top priority and urged ministers in an invitation letter seen by Reuters “to find the common resolve and spirit of compromise that the WTO needs to bring these twenty-year-plus negotiations to a successful conclusion at this meeting”.

Intensive negotiations will continue in Geneva with the chair of the talks, Santiago Wills, expected to issue a fourth version of the draft agreement this week.

He said in a private meeting last week that talks which had been “stuck in a hamster wheel” had now moved onto “an Olympic track”, according to a trade source who attended.

Isabel Jarrett, manager of the ending harmful fisheries subsidies program at The Pew Charitable Trusts said the July date represented a “tremendous opportunity” to reach a deal but urged WTO negotiators not to sacrifice the ambition for speed.

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“Any fisheries subsidies agreement reached this July must contain ambitious sustainability goals that will set our overfished ocean on a path to recovery,” she said.

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