In a significant move towards the realization of the historic Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, seven WTO member countries formally accepted the agreement on October 23rd, bringing the much-anticipated entry into force one step closer. The ratification ceremony took place during the two-day Senior Officials Meeting held at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva. Albania, Australia, Botswana, Cuba, Côte d'Ivoire, the Republic of Korea, and Saint Lucia presented their instruments of acceptance to WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
These formal acceptances mark a substantial milestone, with 51 WTO members having now accepted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. While this represents 46% of the required number for the agreement to come into effect (two-thirds of the WTO membership), it signifies significant progress.
Director-General Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the importance of these acceptances, emphasizing their significance for ocean health, food security, and millions of livelihoods. She also highlighted Fiji's imminent deposit of its formal acceptance.
The Director-General expressed gratitude to the member countries for their efforts and urged those who have not yet ratified the agreement to expedite their domestic processes. She underlined the importance of achieving the necessary acceptance levels before the 13th Ministerial Conference, scheduled for February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.
Representatives of the member countries depositing their formal acceptances reaffirmed the vital importance of putting the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies into action.
Albania's Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy, Mr. Endrit Yzeiraj, emphasized the alignment of Albania's policies with the agreement's objectives, particularly regarding subsidies related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Australia's Tim Yeend, Associate Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hailed the agreement's potential to contribute significantly to ocean sustainability and the livelihoods of fishing communities worldwide.
Botswana's Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry, Beauty Manake, highlighted her country's dedication to a rules-based multilateral trading system and called for balanced negotiations during the second wave of negotiations on fisheries subsidies.
Cuba's Carlos Fidel Martín Rodríguez praised the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies as a historic achievement, emphasizing its contribution to ocean sustainability and special treatment for developing countries.
Ambassador Kouadio Adjoumani of Côte d'Ivoire underscored his country's commitment to sustainability and active participation in the international effort to address fisheries challenges.
The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea in Geneva, Mr. Yun Seong Deok, reaffirmed Korea's dedication to preserving fishery resources and prohibiting harmful subsidies.
Saint Lucia's High Commissioner and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Anthony Severin, hailed the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies as a significant step towards global fish stock sustainability.
The Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies was adopted by consensus during the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022. It establishes binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, addressing a key factor in the depletion of global fish stocks. The agreement also recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries, providing a fund for technical assistance and capacity building to help them fulfill their obligations.
Among its provisions, the agreement prohibits support for IUU fishing, bans support for fishing overfished stocks, and ends subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. Member countries agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues with the aim of making recommendations by MC13 in February 2024, further enhancing the agreement's disciplines. This agreement holds great promise for ocean sustainability and a more equitable global fishing industry, as it strives to combat harmful subsidies and promote responsible fishing practices worldwide.