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WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations

According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization, global fish stocks are increasingly at risk due to unsustainable levels of fishing. At the same time, governments around the world provide billions of dollars in subsidies to their fisheries sectors. Certain forms of fisheries subsidies are furthering the depletion of global fish stocks by contributing to overfishing and overcapacity of fleets around the world. These harmful subsidies also enable illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The importance of addressing the sustainability of global fish stocks is evident given the fisheries’ crucial contribution to food security, nutrition and livelihoods of millions of people in many countries around the world.

WTO Members have been engaged in fisheries subsidies negotiations since the launch of the Doha Round in 2001. Negotiations were launched at the WTO given the organization’s existing subsidies rules that address potential trade distortions that can result from subsidization. The negotiations aim to limit harmful subsidies that contribute to an unsustainable fisheries sector. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 (UN SDG 14.6), adopted in 2015, gave added impetus to the negotiations, when countries committed to, by 2020:

WTO Members have committed to concluding negotiations by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, which was scheduled for June 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been postponed to November 30, 2021.

Canada in the fisheries subsidies negotiations

The fisheries sector plays an important economic, social and cultural role in Canada. As such, Canada supports multilateral efforts to promote sustainable fishing, as well as efforts to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies. Canada has been an active participant in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations since their inception and is seeking a comprehensive and effective agreement that will support sustainability of global fisheries and deliver on UN SDG 14.6.

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