WTO members hope for major fish deal despite waiver demands

GENEVA, June 14 (Reuters) – A global deal to cut fisheries subsidies could be reached at a major World Trade Organization ministerial meeting this week, even though India in particular has pushed for an exemption major, officials said Tuesday.

The 27-year-old trade body hasn’t reached a major deal among its 164 members in nine years and some observers see the fish talks as the best, and possibly the last, chance to do so .

The Geneva-based organization has been weakened by global trade discord, COVID-19 and the crippling of its dispute settlement mechanism.

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Negotiators have worked in confidential meetings in recent days to arrive at a final draft of which there are only 11 undecided areas, compared to more than 80 a year ago.

“I could not have imagined that we were moving so fast a year ago. There is a huge step forward and we hope we can achieve it,” WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Tuesday. , during a press conference.

Countries spend some $35.4 billion a year to support their fishing fleets around the world and China is the biggest, according to a study 2019. This has led some fish stocks to plunge and put others at risk of collapse.

Progress in recent weeks includes agreement on how the rules apply to vessels flying flags that are not their own, the draft agreement showed. However, Indian Commerce Minister Shri Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday that a 25-year transition period was a “must have”.

“Without agreeing to the 25-year transition period, it will be impossible for us to finalize the negotiations, as political space is essential for the sustainable growth and long-term prosperity of our low-income fishers,” he said. declared to other WTO members.

Until recently, China resisted efforts to reduce deep-sea fishing subsidies. China did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

An official from the European Union, a major funder, said the current draft text – the eighth version circulated – represented a “landing zone”.

“Some obstacles could probably be removed, but because they are used as an opportunity to negotiate and negotiate on other tables, they are still maintained,” European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius told Reuters.

A trade diplomat said he believed a fish deal was the deal most likely to emerge from the Geneva talks.

Other negotiations continue at the WTO on food safety and a vaccine waiver for intellectual property rights. find out more

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Reporting by Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop; edited by Philip Blenkinsop, Jane Merriman and Mark Porter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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