World Trade Organization is likely to discuss fishery subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s two-day gathering this week is expected to cover topics ranging from the annual budget to

WTO

Photo: Xinhua

The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s two-day gathering this week is expected to cover topics ranging from the annual budget to trade-related intellectual property issues associated with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Fishery subsidies are anticipated to receive significant attention during meetings of the WTO Council (the highest decision-making body) as talks to negotiate a deal failed on Monday. The UN has estimated that 90% of global fishing stocks have been exhausted or exploited. The main driver of the failed deal is the inability of major subsidising states—US, EU, China, South Korea and Japan—to relinquish a combined $22 billion in government support for large domestic fishing industries, which has destabilised small, local fishing businesses. The pandemic-induced infrequent meeting schedule has further complicated the WTO’s attempts to negotiate a deal.

This week’s assembly will yield little progress on the issue since mistrust among stakeholders remains high. The US and EU are unlikely to lower subsidies unless there is a complete elimination from all parties. China has argued that subsidy dissolution would impair the acquisition of a major food staple. Since the WTO is the most viable forum to address fishery subsidies, expect fishing stocks to continue to decline until the issue is addressed again at the 2021 Ministerial Conference.

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