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EU WELCOMES FISHERIES OUTCOMES AT WTO CONFERENCE

EU WELCOMES FISHERIES OUTCOMES

EU welcomes fisheries outcomes at WTO conference. The EU has welcomed the successful results in key areas of the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO concluded last week, against a backdrop of heightened global trade tensions and a food security crisis caused by Russian’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Trade Ministers of the 164-member organisation met for the first time after almost five years, the Conference having been postponed twice due to the restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members agreed on a significant multilateral Agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies. Also, on specific next steps toward WTO reform, including restoring a fully functioning dispute settlement function for the organisation. A Declaration on pandemic response and future preparedness was also agreed, together with a waiver of certain intellectual property obligations concerning COVID-19 vaccines. In a joint response to the current dramatic food situation resulting from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, WTO members agreed to exercise restraint on export restrictions and to exempt the World Food Programme humanitarian purchases from such restrictions. Finally, an agreement was reached to extend the moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce until the next WTO Ministerial.

Under EU’s initiative, some members reiterated their solidarity with Ukraine. The EU also  forged further cooperation on addressing climate change.

European Commission Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said:

“Despite unprecedented challenges, this WTO Ministerial succeeded in clinching important outcomes of global significance. We showed that we can respond to urgent issues such as the emerging food security crisis and the pandemic. A historic agreement on prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies to underpin sustainability was achieved. We maintained the moratorium on import duties for e-commerce, which was vital for SMEs and the digital transition. The EU also spearheaded a major solidarity event for Ukraine. Over the past 5 days, we worked hard to overcome profound divergences. However, we also agreed a deep reform of the organisation is urgently needed, across all its core functions. Ultimately, this is about restoring trust and the political buy-in of all members, and upholding the rules-based multilateral trade system with a reformed WTO at its core. We will work on this without delay.”

European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, said:

”The adoption of the food security declaration and the decision in support of the World Food Programme demonstrate that the WTO can deliver a timely response to the current challenges. This multilateral declaration carries a strong message to the world. Indeed, addressing the food security concerns has been a key priority for the EU for MC12. Although it was not possible at this ministerial to agree further reform of agriculture, the EU remains fully committed to continue the work on the agricultural reform post MC12. There is a need to focus in particular on trade distorting policies where WTO has a crucial role to play.”

Members agreed to convene the next Ministerial Conference (MC13) no earlier than December 2023 and no later than March 2024. Concrete outcomes of the MC12 include:

Fisheries

A meaningful multilateral agreement contributing to the protection of the oceans was achieved. The agreement on harmful fisheries subsidies is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 (UN SDG). It includes a strong prohibition of subsidies contributing to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing with unprecedented transparency provisions.  Secondly, it includes an absolute prohibition of subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. This is a landmark prohibition for the most vulnerable areas lacking an established and coordinated fisheries management regime. And thirdly, the provision on overfished stocks will bring sustainability rules for subsidies regarding most vulnerable stocks in the first phase of the agreement. For this agreement regarding subsidies on overcapacity and overfishing to enter into force, negotiations on UN SDG 14.6 need to be concluded. The EU is fully committed to complete the agreement with the elements not yet agreed as soon as possible.  A dedicated trust fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building for developing countries to implement the agreement was also announced.

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