WTO moves against harmful support for fishing

Nigerian former Foreign and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala look on July 15, 2020, in Geneva, following her hearing before World Trade Organization 164 member states’ representatives, as part of the application process to head the WTO as Director General. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Director-General, World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations Chair, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, urged WTO members on Wednesday to prepare to make tough calls and pave the way for a ministerial meeting in July in a bid to deliver an agreement that will curb harmful state support for fishing.

During an informal open-ended meeting at heads of delegation level, Okonjo-Iweala, recalled the preamble to the WTO agreement and the mandate of these negotiations.

She said, “People, jobs, sustainability, livelihoods — these are the words that jump out at me from the preamble every time.

“To me, our job is to protect the fish and to protect the many millions of fisher men and women who directly depend on the fish. These two are not mutually exclusive – protecting one does not necessarily compete with protecting the other.

“In fact, fishing sustainably makes socio-economic sense. If there are no more fish in the sea, then the source of food security and livelihood, that was so talked about in the Marrakesh preamble, of those who depend on the fish also will be gone.

“I say all of this to remind us, as we engage over these next few months, of why we are here, doing this particular work. If we present to ministers a text that meets that overall objective, then we will have done our job.

“On the other hand, if the focus over the next few months is to find ways to exclude ourselves from these responsibilities, then we will not be able to deliver on our mandate. And that is not really an option. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not.”

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