Seven World Trade Organisation (WTO) members deposited their instruments of acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on 23 October, propelling the much-anticipated entry into force of the historic agreement for ocean sustainability closer to realisation.
High-level officials of Albania, Australia, Botswana, Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, the Republic of Korea, and Saint Lucia presented their instruments of acceptance to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a ceremony as part of the two-day Senior Officials Meeting at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva.
The latest instruments of acceptance bring the total number of WTO members that have formally accepted the Agreement to 51.
This is 46 percent of what is needed for the Agreement to come into effect (two-thirds of the WTO membership).
The ratification ceremony took place on the sidelines of the Senior Officials Meeting, taking place on 23-24 October, to gather political guidance in respect of the various streams of ongoing work at the WTO, including on the second wave of negotiations on fisheries subsidies.
“Each formal acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies marks an important step towards its entry into force, which is so important for ocean health, for the livelihoods and food security of millions of people, and for the WTO,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said. “Today’s ceremony, with instruments of acceptance from seven members cutting across a wide spectrum of geographical locations and development levels, represents a leap in the right direction,” she said.
“With today’s acceptances, we are nearly half-way towards entry into force. I cannot thank you all enough for the efforts you have made to bring your instruments here to the Senior Officials Meeting. This is a major boost at a decisive moment,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said.
“Let me also strongly request all WTO members that have not yet deposited instruments of acceptance to expedite your domestic processes and submit them as soon as possible. While we are about half-way there, we still have half-way to go, and the 13th Ministerial Conference is only four months away. I am very encouraged that many members today have announced that they are well along in their processes, and I look forward to receiving their instruments soon,” she said.
The senior officials representing the WTO members submitting the latest formal acceptances affirmed the importance of entering into force the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.
The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy of the Republic of Albania, Endrit Yzeiraj, said: “I am very pleased to deposit Albania’s instrument of acceptance for the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. Prohibition of subsidies related to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishing overfished stocks or fishing on the unregulated high seas is in line with the policy that Albania has followed in the field of fishing within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Albania welcomes the establishment of the WTO voluntary financing mechanism in cooperation with relevant international organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This Agreement will benefit developing members like Albania by providing assistance to implement the Agreement and better manage our fish stocks whilst at the same time stop harmful fisheries subsidies from larger subsidising members,” he said.
Tim Yeend, Associate Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said: “It is a great privilege to be here in Geneva to formally deposit Australia’s instrument of acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The conclusion of this Agreement was a strong demonstration that the WTO can respond to modern challenges, and serves as an enduring reminder of the gains that can be made through multilateral rulemaking at the WTO. The entry into force of the Agreement will be particularly meaningful to our Blue Pacific region, and to coastal communities around the world. The Agreement — and its corresponding capacity development fund — will provide a significant contribution to the long-term sustainability of oceans, the livelihoods of fishing communities, and the food security of millions.”
Beauty Manake, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry of Botswana said: “It is with a profound sense of purpose and responsibility that I deposit this instrument of acceptance on behalf of the Republic of Botswana. Our journey towards full participation in the WTO reflects our dedication to a rules-based multilateral trading system that can serve as a cornerstone for stability, growth, and equitable development in an interconnected world. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to the principles of open markets, fairness, transparent, inclusive, and a shared vision for a better future for all. As much as Botswana is a landlocked country and as consumers of fish and fish products, we depend on our trading partners with coastlines, and we are very much concerned with the health and sustainability of the sea. With this instrument we are also reiterating our commitment to forge ahead with the second wave of negotiations and looking forward to a balanced negotiation process that will lead us to achieving a meaningful agreement before MC13. I would like to encourage members who have not yet ratified to do so, as this will ensure that our collective efforts in the conclusion of this important Agreement at MC12 are not wasted.”
Carlos Fidel Martín Rodríguez, Director of International Economic Organisations at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX) of the Republic of Cuba, said: “It is an immense privilege for Cuba to be amongst the first members of the Organisation, and more specifically our region, to conclude and deposit this instrument of ratification of the Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, and its entry into force. The Agreement is a historical achievement for members in that it represents the first SDG target, 14.6, to be met via a multilateral Agreement. It represents a contribution to the sustainability of oceans insofar as it prohibits harmful fisheries subsidies, overcapacity and overfishing. It acknowledges the importance of appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries and, in particular, least developed countries.”
Ambassador Kouadio Adjoumani of Côte d’Ivoire said: “Côte d’Ivoire’s acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted in June 2022, reflects our country’s vision and commitment as regards sustainability. It aligns with the extensive actions taken by our Government to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. It also underscores our country’s resolute commitment to actively engage in the international collective effort to move the multilateral agenda for sustainable fisheries forward. We look forward to the entry into force of this historic Agreement as a substantial contribution by our Organisation to the global response to the challenges facing our planet.”
The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea in Geneva, Yun Seong Deok, said: “As a steadfast supporter of the multilateral system, I am truly pleased to deposit Korea’s instrument of acceptance for the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on the occasion of the Senior Officials Meeting. The conclusion of the Agreement at MC12 is a milestone achievement of WTO members in that it centres on environmental sustainability for the first time since the establishment of the WTO. Korea is firmly committed to the concerted efforts of the international community to preserve fishery resources by prohibiting harmful subsidies such as subsidies for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. In view of fully accomplishing our common goal, Korea will continue to faithfully engage in the second wave of negotiations with other members in the days to come.”
The High Commissioner and Permanent Representative to the WTO of Saint Lucia, Anthony Severin, said: “I take great pleasure in depositing, on behalf of Saint Lucia, the instrument signifying its formal acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies adopted in June 2022 at MC12. This Agreement is full of promise for greater sustainability of global fish stocks through the prohibition of harmful fish subsidies. As an island or ocean state, Saint Lucia considers this to be in its best interest, and has decided to acknowledge this publicly through this formal act of depositing its Instrument of Ratification of the Agreement with the World Trade Organisation.”
Adopted by consensus at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), held in Geneva on 12-17 June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies sets new, binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks. In addition, the Agreement recognises the needs of developing and least-developed country members and establishes a fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement the obligations.
The Agreement prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing overfished stocks and ends subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas.
Members also agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.