October 9, WTO members initiated the sixth "Fish Week" of the year, marking the shift into the text-based phase of negotiations aimed at establishing regulations on subsidies linked to overcapacity and overfishing. Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland, who chairs the negotiations, emphasized the intensifying negotiations in anticipation of the WTO's Senior Officials Meeting scheduled for October 23-24 and the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) set for February 26-29, 2024.
DG Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the mounting pressure with the imminent Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and MC13. She stated, "How you engage this week will set the tone for the rest of this intense period coming up," highlighting that the SOM would provide political guidance concerning the ongoing work at the WTO. She also commended members for their unwavering commitment to achieving an outcome at MC13 and expressed optimism about the prospects for success.
Furthermore, DG Okonjo-Iweala remarked on the significance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies adopted by WTO ministers at MC12 last year and urged members to continue their efforts. She encouraged members to deposit their instruments of acceptance of the Agreement during the upcoming Senior Officials Meeting, as it will enter into force upon acceptance by two-thirds of the membership. To date, 43 acceptances have been received.
Ambassador Gunnarsson emphasized that this week's discussions will focus on hearing members' specific proposals for amendments to the draft text he circulated last month as the starting point for text-based negotiations. He noted that arrangements have been made for evening sessions if required to ensure progress.
At the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022, WTO members reached a historic Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, addressing issues such as support for illegal fishing and overfished stocks. The ongoing second wave of negotiations is centered on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing.