Leaders of the World Trade Organization and The Pew Charitable Trusts are criticizing World Trade Organization member states for failing to put aside their national interests to reach a deal to end harmful fishing subsidies for the benefit of oceans and marine life.
In a report published by the online publication SeafoodSource, the two entities said that the world’s largest fishing nations are dodging their responsibilities.
According to Isabel Jarrett, manager of a Pew Charitable Trusts project to end harmful fisheries subsidies, an ambitious WTO deal to end harmful fisheries subsidies could restore 12.5% of fish biomass in the ocean by 2050.
The most recent draft of the WTO agreement text would likely yield only an increase of 1.59% for that same period, and new research by the University of California Santa Barbara found that the draft text being negotiated would have a minimal impact of fishery stocks, she said.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also expressed frustration with member states’ negotiating strategies. Member states have been bargaining over how to structure opt-outs for developing member states and how to define fuel subsidies, but they have yet to agree on how sustainable fishery stocks are defined, SeafoodSource report said.
In comments during the end of a virtual meeting of trade ministers in mid-July, Okonjo-Iweala said while textual proposals have evolved over the years, a core problem remains the same.
“Instead of converging on effective disciplines for all, negotiators have devoted time and ingenuity to finding ways to constrain others’ support but not their own,” she said. That is what trade negotiators are trained to do, she added, but “it is not getting us the outcome we need for our oceans.”
The talks, which have been going on in various formats for 20 years, were stalled earlier this month, but are set to begin anew in September.