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WTO negotiates for fisheries subsidies and agriculture


Abu Dhabi, 28 February (TDI): After a 2022 deal that banned subsidies, the members of the World Trade Organization had their first working session at 13th Ministerial Conference on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, during which they engaged in intense discussion on fisheries subsidies and agriculture to achieve impactful outcomes.


Ministers showed their keen interest by participating in discussions on both issues and later engaging in convergence-building sessions to seek to bridge the remaining gaps.

Martin Eyjólfsson, Permanent Secretary of the State of Iceland, appreciated both the working and convergence building sessions, which were quite productive, and commended members for their constructive and focused participation.

He mentioned that he will reach out to members for one-on-one discussions on Wednesday, the third day of the conference. He will also provide drafts for a Ministerial Decision and the protocol for adopting additional provisions on fisheries subsidies by the Ministerial Conference.

“I firmly believe that success is within reach. If we operate with the right will, we will find the way. Let’s keep up the momentum,” he stated.

The working session started with the Philippines presenting its instrument of acceptance of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement.

Afterwards, the wave of acceptances at the MC13 opening ceremony, presented by Brunei Darussalam, Chad, Malaysia, Norway, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and Turkey.

Philippines brought the total number of members accepting the Agreement to 70 (40 acceptances remain for the entry into force of the Agreement).

Three critical areas of agriculture

Regarding agriculture, members addressed three critical areas including the balance across topics in terms of the specificity of issues to be addressed, timelines, and expected outcomes.

Also the deliverables for the most vulnerable members in respect of the possible exemption of their imports from other members’ export restrictions; and public stockholding (PSH) for food security purposes.

Rebecca Miano, the facilitator for agriculture and Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry of Kenya, highlighted the unanimous recognition among members regarding the crucial need to attain a significant outcome at the conference.

This outcome is expected to provide a clear sense of direction for future negotiations. Many members stressed the importance of agreeing on deliverables at the conference, but views continued to differ on how these shared objectives may be achieved.

After the thematic session, the day concluded with a meeting of Heads of Delegations, where the WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, expressed gratitude for members’ constructive feedback and constructive engagement across all areas of discussion.

She stressed that it is “crunch time,” with only two days left until the official conclusion of the Ministerial Conference. “Everyone wants to leave on time, but if we do not get results, we are not leaving!” she added.

New rules and initiatives at 13th Ministerial Conference

On the second day, members also endorsed putting new rules into action on services, domestic regulation, advanced work on plastic pollution, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and environmental sustainability.

This support of new disciplines on domestic service regulation is anticipated to lower trade costs by over USD 125 billion worldwide.

Endorsed by 72 WTO members, the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation is designed to facilitate services trade by streamlining and simplifying regulatory procedures and thereby lowering trade costs.

It encompasses the first-ever commitment in a WTO agreement to ensuring non-discrimination between men and women when they seek permits to supply services.

Also Read: Pakistan and UAE sign MOU for agricultural advancement

Regarding the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), 76 participating members unveiled a package of outcomes highlighting advances made in the discussions since the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2002 and identifying forthcoming steps in trade policy.

In the course of a dialogue on plastic pollution and environmentally sustainable plastic trade (DPP), a ministerial statement circulated by the six co-coordinators—Australia, Barbados, China, Ecuador, Fiji, and Morocco—outlined trade-related actions to address the environmental, health, and economic impacts of plastic pollution.

Beside the conference proceeding, Director-General Okonjo-Iweala met members of her Civil Society Advisory Group to exchange views on the role of trade and how the WTO can adapt to address current global challenges.

Saudha Hira
Saudha Hira
A dedicated student of International Relations at the University of Karachi (UOK), and a passionate explorer of Long-form Journalism. She is keen to understand the changing dynamics of International Affairs and how states use multi-vector foreign policy in a contemporary era to acquire their interest. She is eager to contribute to the discourse on Intricate geopolitical matters. She can be reached at saudha854@gmail.com

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