WTO unlikely to reach final fishery deal during conference: spokesman

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - World Trade Organization (WTO) members are unlikely to reach a final deal to curb fishery subsidies during the ministerial conference underway this week in Buenos Aires, spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters on Monday.

Delegates of the 164-member body were instead discussing an “interim” deal, but remained divided on whether such a temporary agreement should contain exemptions for certain countries while negotiations for a final deal went ahead, Rockwell said.

“It seems clear that we may not be able to get a final decision, so an interim decision on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is being discussed, it’s on the cards,” he said.

The United States and 12 other countries said last year they would begin WTO negotiations to ban harmful fishery subsidies, which they said contributed to over fishing and over capacity in the sector or were linked to illegal fishing.

The success of any deal is widely seen to rest on the willingness of China, which has resisted pressure to curb its vast fleet, to accept restrictions. China presented a plan last month to ban subsidies to IUU fishing vessels, but with exemptions for developing countries and areas subject to territorial disputes.

“Overcapacity and over fishing - that’s something that has not been taken up here to any great extent because we’ve only got three days and they’re trying to put all their energies into things that are doable,” Rockwell said.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Paul Tait