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WTO Members Strive for Consensus on Fisheries Subsidies and Agriculture at MC13

WTO members, assembled in Abu Dhabi for the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), engaged in intense discussions aimed at driving meaningful outcomes on fisheries subsidies and agriculture.

Saurabh Shukla
WTO Members Strive for Consensus on Fisheries Subsidies and Agriculture at MC13 (Photo Source: @NOIweala/X)
WTO Members Strive for Consensus on Fisheries Subsidies and Agriculture at MC13 (Photo Source: @NOIweala/X)

The first working session at MC13 centered on fisheries subsidies. Facilitated by Iceland's Permanent Secretary of State, Martin Eyjólfsson, the session and subsequent convergence-building efforts were characterized as productive. Eyjólfsson commended members for their constructive participation and announced plans for bilateral consultations to further progress on the matter. Notably, the Philippines presented its instrument of acceptance of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, bringing the total acceptances to 70, with 40 more needed for the Agreement's entry into force.

On agriculture, members tackled key areas including the balance across topics, timelines, expected outcomes, and public stockholding for food security purposes. Facilitator Rebecca Miano, Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry of Kenya, emphasized the importance of reaching an outcome at MC13. Despite differing views on achieving shared objectives, Miano expressed the intention to arrange meetings to narrow gaps and table compromise proposals, stressing the need for timely compromises to make progress.

In a meeting of Heads of Delegations, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala lauded members for constructive engagement but underscored the urgency of the remaining days. With only two days left until the official conclusion of MC13, Okonjo-Iweala emphasized the necessity of tangible results, stating, "If we do not get results, we are not leaving." She highlighted the importance of ministerial conversations addressing trade and sustainable development, signaling a desire among members to continue such dialogues in future conferences.

WTO MC13 :Milestones Achieved

Day Two of MC13 witnessed the entry into force of new policies on services domestic regulation, expected to significantly reduce global trade costs. The Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, supported by 72 WTO members, aims to streamline regulatory procedures, with a commitment to ensuring non-discrimination between genders. Additionally, participants revealed outcomes on Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions and the Dialogue on Plastic Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade, signaling progress in addressing pressing environmental concerns.

On the sidelines, Director-General Okonjo-Iweala engaged with her Civil Society Advisory Group to explore the role of trade and the evolving role of the WTO in addressing global challenges. This exchange underscores the commitment to inclusive dialogue and collaboration in shaping the future of international trade policy.

What is the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies?

WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies represents a groundbreaking step towards prioritizing environmental sustainability within the scope of international trade. As the opening WTO agreement dedicated specifically to this cause, it sets forth a comprehensive framework of binding prohibitions and regulations. These measures are meticulously crafted to safeguard against the depletion of marine resources by ensuring that government support for the fishing sector aligns with sustainable practices. By addressing the potential detrimental impacts of subsidies on marine ecosystems, the agreement underscores a commitment to preserving the delicate balance of our oceans while facilitating global trade.

As MC13 enters its final days, stakeholders remain focused on achieving concrete outcomes that will advance global trade while addressing pressing environmental and developmental challenges.

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