La DGA Ellard insta a la pronta ratificación del Acuerdo sobre Subvenciones a la Pesca
El 15 de mayo, la Directora General Adjunta Angela Ellard instó a los parlamentarios de todo el mundo a ratificar sin demora el Acuerdo sobre Subvenciones a la Pesca a fin de que pueda empezar a reportar sus beneficios para los océanos y las personas que dependen de ellos. En las observaciones que pronunció en el Taller RSIS-OMC para Parlamentarios en Singapur, también pidió a los parlamentarios que recalcaran a los negociadores de sus Gobiernos la urgencia de completar la segunda serie de negociaciones sobre la pesca. A continuación figura el texto completo de su discurso.
(de momento sólo en inglés)
Honorable Members of Parliaments, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon from Geneva!
Thank you to the Temasek Foundation and the Nanyang Technological University for co-organizing this workshop with the WTO, and for inviting me to speak about the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.
Since this workshop is focused on trade and negotiations, I am delighted to talk about this latest addition to the WTO rulebook, which was adopted by all WTO Members nearly one year ago at our 12th Ministerial Conference.
In my remarks today, I will discuss how the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies will improve ocean sustainability, its significance for the multilateral trading system, and what we must do next. I emphasize that Members of Parliaments are particularly instrumental and influential in cementing the meaningful gains that we have achieved through this Agreement and as we strive to do more to protect our ocean and those who depend on it. Throughout my remarks, I will note, in particular, where Parliaments can be most helpful.
Importance of the Agreement
Let me start with the significance of this binding multilateral Agreement.
First, by prohibiting certain harmful types of fisheries subsidies, it delivers on UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 14.6 after more than 21 years of negotiations, making it the first SDG target addressed through a multilateral agreement.
Second, the Agreement marks only the second time since the WTO’s creation that WTO Members have added a new multilateral agreement to our rulebook, which speaks to its significance for multilateralism. The Agreement reflects a consensus among all of our 164 Members, not simply the view of a majority. This accomplishment is systemically important for the WTO. It shows that, even in times of increased geopolitical tensions, our Members still value multilateralism and consensus-based decision making and that they can find common ground and achieve outcomes on issues related to the public good. This gives us hope that the WTO can deliver on other challenges of the global commons, such as climate change, food security, and plastic pollution.
Third, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is the first WTO Agreement with a broad environmental sustainability objective. It marks the first time WTO Members have used a subsidies discipline for an objective other than addressing purely economic effects of subsidies. Instead, the Agreement is designed to address the consequences to the ocean and the environment caused by harmful subsidies. It will make fishing more sustainable by prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing — or IUU fishing — as well as subsidies to fishing overfished stocks, and subsidies to fishing on the unregulated high seas. This will be of major benefit to people in developed and developing countries alike, who depend on the fisheries sector to make a living and as a source of protein.
How will this historic deal address the problems of our ocean? As you know, the world’s ocean faces enormous challenges. One of the most fundamental is the dramatic deterioration in global fish stocks, which continues unabated. By some measures, nearly half of assessed fish stocks are overfished, down dramatically from 10 per cent in the ’70s and about 18 per cent in 2001 when the fisheries subsidies negotiations began. Not only does this decline have huge repercussions for marine ecosystems and thus the global environment, it also has grave consequences for millions of people around the world who depend on fishing.
Unfortunately, some governments continue to provide fisheries subsidies without regard for their impact on sustainability. By doing so, they are investing in the destruction of natural capital that should instead be paying generous dividends globally. Data shows that governments spend about $22 billion per year in unsustainable fishing subsidies. Just imagine what it would mean for fish stocks and marine health if that amount was instead spent on restoring fish stocks and sustainable fishing!
The Agreement thus is a meaningful leap forward in the race to preserve our ocean and its precious living resources as well as to promote sustainable development.
Now that the Agreement is concluded, our Members are engaged in two parallel work tracks to achieve further progress.
The first track is accepting the new Agreement. To be able to deliver results, the Agreement must enter into force, which requires two-thirds of WTO Members to deposit their instruments of acceptance with the WTO. Six WTO Members — including our host Singapore — have already completed their domestic processes and submitted their instruments of acceptance to the WTO. I thank those Members for their leadership.
Many other Members are at advanced stages of their acceptance processes, and we expect them to deposit their instruments in the upcoming weeks and months. The more Members accept the Agreement, the more positive momentum this creates, which encourages other Members to expedite their processes.
My plea to parliamentarians from all WTO Members that require parliamentary ratification is to say “yes” to this Agreement so that it can start delivering its benefits for ocean sustainability as soon as possible. Translating this Agreement into meaningful action is squarely in your hands. Even if your system does not require parliamentary approval, I encourage you to urge your responsible authorities to take rapid action, for the sake of the fish and those who depend on it for their livelihoods.
The second track is continuing negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues that could not be agreed at MC12.
At MC12, WTO Members agreed to keep working on a second wave of negotiations, with a view to recommending further disciplines to our next Ministerial Conference, which will take place in Abu Dhabi next February, just nine months away. A central focus of the second wave of negotiations is disciplining subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing as well as appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed country Members. To compel a successful conclusion of these second wave negotiations, WTO Members agreed to a termination clause in the existing Agreement, which would kick in four years after it enters into force if these negotiations are not completed. That puts a hot deadline in our Members’ hands.
Delegations in Geneva are actively working on these negotiations. Last October, we hosted a very fruitful retreat for our Geneva-based Ambassadors to discuss the second wave of negotiations, which helped illuminate Member priorities. One key message from the retreat was that Members should continue to build a backbone of knowledge, which we have started with two workshops held in November and January.
Members found this knowledge-building extremely useful for laying a good foundation before commencing the second wave of negotiations.
Since then, we have held two weeks of intensive negotiations, or “fish weeks”, as we call them. These fish weeks have helped our Members to significantly advance work on the second wave of negotiations, and many Members have indicated their readiness to proceed to text-based negotiations. We hope that the third fish week, which will take place at the beginning of June, will help achieve an even greater convergence in Members’ positions. During these negotiations, we ask our Members to be as ambitious as possible, and I call on Parliamentarians to liaise with your negotiators to convey a sense of urgency. The longer we wait, the more our fish stocks deteriorate, and the more at risk our vulnerable populations will be. You, as representatives of your people, have a direct stake.
In addition, the WTO Secretariat has been conducting a series of technical activities in different regions of the developing country world to help government officials better understand the new Agreement, encourage prompt acceptance, and lay the groundwork for the second wave of negotiations.
A final, but no less important, point on the Agreement is that Article 7 provides for the establishment of a dedicated funding mechanism to support implementation of the Agreement by developing and LDC Members who have ratified it. The Fund has now been established, and we have already started to receive donations. Japan, Canada, and Germany have been our first donors, and we are expecting more contributions in the upcoming months. Many others have made pledges to the Fund, which we expect will become contributions shortly. A robust Fund sends a strong signal to developing and least-developed country Members that they will receive the assistance they need to implement the Agreement, thereby encouraging them to ratify the Agreement quickly.
Honourable Members of Parliaments,
By way of conclusion, let me reiterate that for the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement reached by our Members last June to come to life and start delivering its benefits for fisheries sustainability and for the lives of fishermen and women around the globe, we need two-thirds of WTO Members to accept it as soon as possible. I therefore reiterate my plea to you that you engage further with your governments as well as legislators from other countries to help us deliver in this critical mission.