Free Trade Zones

WTO negotiator Santiago Wills sees ‘landing zones’ for deal reducing damaging fisheries subsidies

The chairman of the World Trade Organization negotiations to eliminate fisheries subsidies said he was “very optimistic” about the possibility of reaching a deal before a next ministerial meeting.

Santiago Wills, who recently extended the time available to delegates before the release of the latest draft text, said there had been “progress in finding landing areas” for language on exemptions for countries development and methodologies to define definitions of illegal and sustainable fishing. .

Wills has set the new target for a deal for November 30, when a ministerial meeting is due to take place. According to Wills, the coming weeks will not be “easy”.

The fleets of several WTO member states currently depend on subsidies for fuel and for fleet development to remain profitable. Several large Chinese listed fishing companies regularly report losses, even with subsidies and tax-free landing.

Reinforcing the urgency of an agreement, 300 scientists from around the world published a letter in Science calling for an end to harmful subsidies to “halt overfishing, biodiversity degradation, losses and CO2 emissions”. This letter demands an end to all subsidies to offshore fleets and support prices that keep catch prices “artificially high”. Scientists support exemptions for subsistence fishing in developing countries, but only if the exemptions are decoupled from the incentives for overfishing.

Spain, as the first recipient of European Union subsidies, the world’s third-largest source of harmful subsidies – according to Science’s letter – could play a “leading role” in the talks, according to Professor Sebastian Villasante de the University of Santiago de Compostela. , one of the signatories of the letter. He said the harmful subsidies were public funds used to support overfishing and “inefficient” fishing fleets.

Recent research by The Pew Charitable Trusts has shown that eliminating all harmful subsidies would result in a 12.5 percent increase in fish biomass by 2050.

Photo courtesy of the World Trade Organization