Financial assistance must be expanded to help developing and least-developed country (LDC) members establish sustainable fisheries in light of the historic World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) agreement to curb harmful fishing subsidies, the Director-General of the global trade body, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said.
The former Nigeria Finance Minister was quoted in a statement to have said this at an Aid for Trade Global Review event held recently, where a new report by the Secretariat was launched.
The event also featured high-level officials from coastal economies and donor partners who expressed support for channeling more resources towards sustainable fisheries.
“At our 12th Ministerial Conference, WTO members adopted a new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The Agreement is the first broadly-focused, binding multilateral agreement on ocean sustainability. It also is the first WTO agreement with environmental sustainability at its core,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said at the event, where she also took the opportunity to urge members to formally accept the Agreement so that it can enter into force.
“For developing country and LDC members, implementation will take time, effort and money,” the DG added, citing tasks ahead such as integrating fisheries-related elements into subsidy policies and meeting new notification requirements, particularly on fisheries-related information.
“The WTO’s new report, ‘Implementing the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies: Challenges and opportunities for developing and least-developed country members,’ helps set the context for this important conversation,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said, underlining that 65 per cent of $5 billion in assistance earmarked for fisheries and the ocean economy between 2010 and 2020 targeted sustainable fisheries according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented in the report.
“One telling statistic from the report, though, is that the assistance to sustainable marine fisheries over ten years is dwarfed by the annual $22 billion in harmful fisheries subsidies.
“Eliminating these subsidies would in principle unlock a huge amount of resources that could be redirected to promote and support sustainable fisheries management and practices by all members, including developing and LDC members,” she said.
The Director-General drew attention to the voluntary WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism, which is foreseen in the Agreement to fill gaps in existing assistance and thus ensure that beneficiaries have what they need to fully implement the new WTO rules.
The Fund will be operated by the WTO along with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“Donors to the Fund already have pledged around half of our initial target of $10 million, and we are working to get it up and running quickly,” she said.