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Informal Open-Ended Negotiating Group on Rules (RNG) on Fisheries Subsidies
December 14, 2018

Informal Open-Ended Negotiating Group on Rules (RNG) on Fisheries Subsidies

Statement as delivered by Ambassador Dennis C. Shea
U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
Geneva, 14 December 2018

Thank you, Ambassador Zapata, for convening this meeting, as well as for your continued leadership.  Your task is not easy and we appreciate your vigorous efforts.

The United States fully supports your “January – July 2019 Work Program” and we agree with your assessment of the need to shift into a new mode of work when we return from the holiday break.

This upcoming period will be critical to our success in achieving “comprehensive and effective disciplines” on harmful fisheries subsidies, as agreed by our Ministers just one year ago when they gathered at MC11.

The United States will continue to actively participate in these negotiations, and remains committed to working with you and other Members to advance a robust and meaningful outcome.

I want to underscore that it will be important for delegations to work bilaterally and informally in small groups in varied configurations over the coming year, in addition to and apart from the more structured schedule that the Chair has outlined in the work program.  Only with this type of intensive, informal engagement, and testing of new ideas and potential solutions, can we meet our ambitious deadline.

As we ramp up our efforts here in Geneva and in capitals, it remains critical that Members – especially those that have failed to submit a subsidy notification over the past decade or more – come forward with complete and updated subsidy notifications, as was also agreed by our Ministers in Buenos Aires.

Unfortunately, very few Members have taken the MC11 recommitment seriously, by submitting an up-to-date and complete notification since the Ministerial Conference. As a membership, we are still woefully behind on full compliance with this obligation. Without accurate, up-to-date and complete information on the fisheries subsidy programs currently in use by Members, how can we know for certain how best to shape “comprehensive and effective” disciplines?

I have said this before, but it is worth saying again — the fisheries subsidies negotiations, the WTO’s only active multilateral negotiation, are a practical, real-time opportunity to begin implementing much needed reforms. Fish stands as both a “test-case” for the negotiating function of this organization, as well as an opportunity to shift the discourse on some fundamental issues currently facing the WTO.

This is particularly true in terms of the traditional “development dimension” that has marked WTO negotiations in the past.  In the fisheries sector, unlike many others, developing Members, including one least developed Member, account for 14 out of the top 25 marine capture producers globally, according to the FAO.  We should all be thinking carefully about how some of the generous carve-outs and exceptions being proposed stack up against this reality.

And as I’ve said before, fisheries subsidies disciplines must apply to all major players – both developed and “self-identified” developing country Members – in order to be meaningful.

During the TNC earlier this week, I heard many expressions of commitment to delivering on our ministerial mandate on this critical issue.  What is certain is that Members will have the opportunity over the course of the next year to put their money where their mouth is – quite literally in the case of disciplining subsidies.

For our part, the United States stands ready to roll up our sleeves, to think creatively yet practically, and to help bring this negotiation to a successful conclusion.

So thank you again, Roberto, for bringing us all together to remind us of the critical work that lies ahead and what is at stake.