The issue of overfishing, which the World Trade Organization has been trying to tackle for 20 years now, is expected to be tackled by the global trade dispute redress body and in turn will also be able to clear doubts about its own usefulness.
No major trade agreements have been clinched by the global trade watchdog, which has 164 member countries, for years now and therefore it is critically important for the WTO to land one trade deal to maintain its credibility.
It is hoped that the WTO will be able to soon strike a global deal for reducing the widespread fishing subsidies which is considered to be the single most important factor for depletion of fish stocks globally.
The WTO itself says that a deal in this regards is imminent.
Prior to a November session when the deal is expected to be sealed, the ministerial meeting, being held virtually, “should kick us along the path towards agreement”, said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
However there is some scepticism among some delegates who say that there still exist differences in views about the allocation of subsidies between wealthy countries such as the European Union and those of developing countries such as India.
“Many members feel that the larger subsidisers should make larger cuts to their subsidies, given the worldwide impact of their fishing, both historical and current, whereas many developing countries feel the rules should be different for them,” said Alice Tipping from the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
An appeal for exemptions for those WTP members that take less than 2.5 per cent of the global catch of fish was proposed confidentially by African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in May. However some say that providing such an exemption would undermine the deal.
According to a study in 2019 by academics from universities and institutes in Canada, China and the United States, China is the single biggest subsidiser for fishing industry in the world and it accounts for 21 per cent of the $35.4 billion in subsidies that countries and trading blocs around the world, including the European Union, give away to their fishing industry for boosting fleet power annually.
That has resulted in a depletion of sustainable fish stocks that was at 90 per cent of the total in 1990 to less than 66 per cent in 2017, according to a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Such fishing in international waters – known as the “high seas” – would not be profitable without state subsidies, claimed a study that was carried out by researchers in 2018 from the United States, Canada and Australia.
“In the waters in countries from which fleets emanate, the stocks are devastated, so they have to go elsewhere and they compete with each other,” said Daniel Pauly, a fisheries biologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, expressing particular concern about tuna. “This is a race to the bottom.”
“This is the last chance for a deal,” said Friends of Ocean Action’s Remi Parmentier. “If not, there’s an existential crisis at the WTO.”
(Adapted from USNews.com)