US accepts WTO fishery subsidy accord

The United States on Tuesday formally accepted a historic agreement banning harmful fisheries subsidies, becoming the first among large fishing nations in the World Trade Organization to do so.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hailed the move for bringing the agreement closer to coming into effect.

“This strong show of support by the United States for the WTO’s work toward ocean sustainability marks a pivotal increase in momentum among the membership to ensure this landmark agreement enters into force,” she said in a statement.

Before the announcement, only Singapore, the Seychelles and Switzerland had formally accepted the deal.

After more than two decades of negotiations towards banning subsidies that encourage overfishing and threaten the sustainability of the planet’s fish stocks, a deal, albeit watered down, was finally sealed last June.

The agreement bans subsidies that contribute to fishing that is illegal, unreported or unregulated, or of overfished stock, but it stopped short of banning subsides that contribute to overfishing more broadly.

Members are meanwhile continuing to negotiate on outstanding issues with an eye to agreeing additional provisions to the agreement at the next WTO ministerial conference, to be held in the United Arab Emirates in February 2024.

For the 2022 agreement to be implemented, two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 members must submit their “instruments of acceptance” with the Geneva-based global trade body.

Upon depositing Washington’s instrument of acceptance, US trade representative Katherine Tai said her country was proud to be among the first to sign on to the “first-ever multilateral trade agreement with environmental sustainability at its core”.

“It will help improve the lives of fishers and workers here in the United States and elsewhere, and we look forward to building on this agreement with other WTO members,” she said in a statement.


© Agence France-Presse