Remarks by the Pacific Islands Forum Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
WTO High Level Pacific Regional Event on Fisheries Subsidies
16 November 2022
Senior Officials of the Pacific WTO Members,
Excellencies, the Geneva-based Pacific Ambassadors,
Representatives of the WTO Secretariat,
Representative of the Forum Fisheries Agency,
Pacific Group Support Consultant,
and the PIFS Trade Team,
I am delighted to deliver these remarks on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, on the occasion of the WTO High-Level Pacific Regional Event on Fisheries Subsidies which we are able to attend in-person here in Fiji. This would be the first Pacific WTO Workshop held in-person since before the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the last regional activity was the Fisheries Subsidies Workshop held here in Nadi in 2019.
It is also a pleasure to see once again some Pacific Officials who attended MC12 in Geneva in June this year and observed first- hand the complex negotiation to reach decisions at MC12.
MC12 was considered a success with the delivery of 10 outcomes constituting the Geneva Package, including one on fisheries subsidies. Given the considerable socio-economic importance of the Fisheries sector to the Blue Pacific Region, Fisheries Subsidies has been a longstanding priority for the Pacific in the WTO negotiations ever since negotiations was launched in Doha in 2001. The Pacific Group, with the ACP, played an influential role in the adoption of the Ministerial decisions on fisheries subsidies at MC12.
The Ministerial Decision involved two aspects – the first was the adoption of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, or FSA in short. This is a partial outcome addressing two of the three pillars of the negotiations namely subsidies to IUU fishing and to overfished stocks. The second aspect relate to the mandate to continue negotiations on outstanding issues including overcapacity and overfishing with appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs and for recommendations to MC13. Disciplines on overcapacity and overfishing will need to be addressed if we are to fully deliver on SDG 14.6 and contribute to the sustainability of global oceans as envisioned in the SDG 14.6 mandate.
Since MC12, Members have embarked on two workstreams on fisheries subsidies.
The first is the domestic ratification of the FSA to bring the Agreement into force. The second work stream is to restart the work in the second wave of the negotiations to address on the outstanding pillar, including overcapacity and overfishing.
The Workshop over the next 2 days, therefore, presents an opportunity for Senior Officials of Pacific WTO Members such as yourselves, to better understand the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement and to assist Members with implementation. Presentations on the FSA and the second wave will be made by the WTO Secretariat, and complemented by the Pacific Ambassadors in Geneva as well as the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and PIFS on the regional perspectives.
Members are also aware that this Workshop will also prepare for the Special Forum Trade Ministers Meeting on 18 November. Considering the work ahead in the second wave of negotiations, Members would recall that the Forum Leaders, during their meeting in July of this year, has called on the eight Forum WTO Members to work together to conclude the remaining pillar of the fisheries subsidies negotiations on Overcapacity and Overfishing and provide appropriate Special and Differential Treatment for developing and least developing countries.
With this understanding, the Pacific WTO Members could then discuss possible ways forward in terms of FSA ratification and implementation, and how to engage in the second wave of negotiations. Officials will then be prepared to brief their Ministers for the Ministerial sessions of the High-Level Event on
The Workshop will end with an all-encompassing session on the other MC12 outcomes of the Geneva Package. Important decisions relate to COVID 19 and future preparedness, food security, reinvigoration of the Work Program on Ecommerce and the Work Program on Small Economies, Trade and Environment and WTO reforms. This session will present work that has started in Geneva, identify priorities for Pacific Members and how the implementation of these outcomes at the WTO can could contribute to the achievement of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as set out in the Strategy adopted recently by our Leaders in July 2022.
This Workshop will therefore enable Officials to determine how our engagement in the WTO and in the different discussions could benefit us so that the WTO can respond to the specific needs of the Pacific WTO members that comprise some of the smallest and most vulnerable Members, are Least Developed Countries, and are Net Food-Importing Developing Countries. To this end, I urge Officials to participate actively in the Workshop.
In view of the upcoming negotiations and post-MC12 work, PIFS reaffirms its commitment to cooperating with the WTO to continue providing targeted and meaningful technical assistance and capacity building activities covering WTO issues that the Pacific Group could derive benefits from in the multilateral trading system, notably the fisheries subsidies workstreams.
In closing let me thank the WTO for its financial support to this workshop, as well as the TAF2 program. I thank you all for your attention and look forward to a productive and constructive discussion.