Conservation of Fisheries: Fisheries Agreement Fails at WTO Conference

EA planned global agreement to better protect fish stocks has so far failed. Trade ministers from the 166 member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to agree on collective action in Abu Dhabi.

A minimal consensus

Only minimal consensus was reached on a ban on fees for electronic transmissions: countries agreed not to impose such fees for now, but only until March 31, 2026 at the latest.

German industry would have liked to see the general duty-free procedure established as a standard once and for all since 1998. The next WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Cameroon, Africa in 2026. Then a new decision has to be made.

The agreement should have restricted overfishing

A fisheries agreement should limit any subsidies that lead to overfishing or overcapacity. It is intended, on the one hand, to protect fish resources, and on the other hand, to prevent more and more boats from being built and used. This would have fulfilled the agreement that only refers to the worst forms of subsidies reached in 2022.

“Unfortunately, the poker between industrialized and developing countries does not have a happy ending,” said Anna Hol-Bull, a fisheries expert at the WWF Environment Foundation. “The result of the negotiations is a license to continue overexploitation of the oceans.”

WTO members must decide unanimously

The conference, which was originally scheduled to last only until Thursday, was extended several times in hopes of reaching an agreement, but ultimately in vain. The difficulty is that the 166 countries of the WTO always make unanimous decisions. So each country has veto power. The EU is negotiating with all 27 member states as a collective.

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“In long hours of negotiations, we have seen difficult but fruitful cooperation,” WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala concluded. But that's not enough. Negotiations will now continue at the organization's headquarters in Geneva.

Another important topic for the German economy

Even before the conference began, it was clear that another issue close to the hearts of German business would not make progress: the overhaul of the dispute settlement system.

It has been partially blocked for four years because the United States blocks the appointment of appellate judges. They demand comprehensive WTO reforms, for which they currently lack a majority.

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