“In all, I held more than 30 bilateral sessions, and they were uniformly positive in tone. Delegations expressed great enthusiasm to fully re-engage, and to work hard to fulfil the mandate that we received from ministers at MC12,” Ambassador Gunnarsson said at the meeting of heads of delegations. His consultations were held on 8-15 February with delegations representing individual members and groups of members about how to organize work for the second wave of fisheries subsidies negotiations, he explained.
Delegations underlined how important the negotiations are for the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability, he said. “I view this enthusiasm and sense of importance and connection to a bigger picture as essential enabling conditions for us to complete the second wave of negotiations in the available time. This makes me optimistic that we will be able to submit a minister-ready draft outcome by the next WTO Ministerial Conference, one year from now,” Ambassador Gunnarsson said.
All members identified as central to the negotiations the development of disciplines on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing, and the associated provisions for special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed country members, he said. Members generally pointed to the texts from negotiations before MC12 as highly relevant to this work, and also expressed openness to exploring options for these issues. Some members, he added, pointed to other outstanding issues that they wished to address in the second wave, including disciplines on subsidies contingent on fishing outside the subsidizing member's jurisdiction; provisions on transparency in respect of the use of forced labour in fishing and fishing related activities; and the issue of non-specific fuel subsidies.
Based on the consultations, the chair has scheduled four periodic clusters of meetings called ‘fish weeks’ to be held until July. The chair intends to seek a broad exchange on disciplines on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing in the first few meeting clusters before moving on to text-based negotiations.
The chair further called for more members to submit their formal acceptances of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, which was adopted in June 2022 at MC12. Acceptances from two-thirds of WTO members are needed for the Agreement to come into effect. Switzerland and Singapore have deposited their formal acceptances, and many other members are hard at work to deposit soon. He also noted calls from some members during the consultations for a process to develop working procedures, notification templates and other documentation that the Committee on Fisheries Subsidies will need when the Agreement enters into force. He also expressed appreciation to Japan for its recent donation, and to other members for upcoming donations, to the new Fisheries Funding Mechanism.
The next fisheries subsidies meeting will be during the first 'fish week' scheduled for the week of 20 March.