WTO DG fixes July ministerial meeting on over-fishing rules

Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a press conference remotely on the annual global WTO trade forecast at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland March 31, 2021. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool via Reuters

GENEVA, May 10 (Reuters) - The head of the World Trade Organization plans to host a ministerial meeting on July 15 where she hopes an agreement can be reached on cutting fisheries subsidies after 20 years of talks, a document showed on Monday.

Governments including major subsidisers China, the European Union and Japan spend billions of dollars a year to prop up their fishing fleets, contributing to over-fishing that is decimating wild stocks. The WTO was tasked by world leaders in 2015 with striking a deal to roll them back but missed a key deadline last year. read more

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took charge of the global trade watchdog in March, has made fisheries a top priority and urged ministers in an invitation letter seen by Reuters "to find the common resolve and spirit of compromise that the WTO needs to bring these twenty-year-plus negotiations to a successful conclusion at this meeting".

Intensive negotiations will continue in Geneva with the chair of the talks, Santiago Wills, expected to issue a fourth version of the draft agreement this week.

He said in a private meeting last week that talks which had been "stuck in a hamster wheel" had now moved onto "an Olympic track", according to a trade source who attended.

Isabel Jarrett, manager of the ending harmful fisheries subsidies program at The Pew Charitable Trusts said the July date represented a "tremendous opportunity" to reach a deal but urged WTO negotiators not to sacrifice the ambition for speed.

"Any fisheries subsidies agreement reached this July must contain ambitious sustainability goals that will set our overfished ocean on a path to recovery," she said.

Reporting by Emma Farge, editing by Ed Osmond

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