Ambassador Shea’s Remarks for the Informal Open-Ended Meeting of the
Rules Negotiating Group on Fisheries Subsidies
13 February 2020
Thank you, Santiago, for your report and for organizing this meeting. As I have noted previously, the United States stands ready to assist you in your role as Chair to bring these negotiations to a successful and meaningful conclusion.
Your update is indeed sobering. On several issues, it sounds like we have made little progress since MC 11 and on others issues, we have actually gone backwards. We are less than four short months away from our June deadline and we clearly still have a long way to go. What is equally disappointing is that, despite our Ministers’ recommitment at MC11 to fulfill subsidy notification obligations, including notification of fisheries subsidies, we still do not have a full picture of Members’ current subsidy programs. This is hampering the progress of the negotiations, and we urge all Members who have not done so, to get these notifications in.
Regarding your appeal for flexibility and pragmatism, the United States has been working in that mode. We have made an effort to find bridging solutions in the IUU text – in particular in the area of coastal state determinations; we have signaled a willingness to work on an overfishing and overcapacity discipline as a complement to an additional, constraining cap approach; and we have signaled a willingness to work on the basis of the Facilitator’s text on overfished stocks, or previous TPP-like text. We have also developed proposals to prohibit particularly harmful subsidies in the overfishing and overcapacity area, such as distant water contingency subsidies and subsidies for vessels not flying a Member’s flag.
All of these efforts have demonstrated the United States’ determination to roll up our sleeves, be creative and find solutions – to bridge gaps while also pressing for a discipline that results in a meaningful outcome.
We hear many Members also supporting a “meaningful outcome.” Without a doubt this means something different to all of us. For the United States, an outcome is meaningful only if it changes the status quo. A discipline will need to actually constrain the largest subsidizers, not preserve and protect their subsidies forever, under the guise that these subsidies are always green or always good.
The United States will do our part to continue to be pragmatic, and yes, flexible. But not at the expense of achieving an outcome that we can all be proud of, and that we can say truly demonstrates what the WTO can do to contribute to protecting and conserving our ocean’s precious resources, as well as the livelihoods and food security of millions of people. We continue to stand ready to work with you, Santiago, and with all Members, to deliver such an outcome.