U.N. chief urges world leaders to clinch WTO fisheries deal, document shows

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GENEVA (Businesshala) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to world leaders calling for a deal to curb fisheries subsidies near its final stages at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, a document showed. .

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, US, September 21, 2021. Businesshala / Eduardo Munoz / Poole

However, in a sign of challenges, the head of negotiations had to delay a series of daily meetings starting this week to finalize the wording of the draft agreement due to outstanding “macro” differences between members, a WTO spokesperson confirmed.

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In a September 29 letter, Guterres called on world leaders to “join me in pushing for agreement at the WTO to end harmful fisheries subsidies before the end of this year” in a rare intervention by the UN chief in WTO affairs. called upon.

The WTO talks on ending billion-dollar harmful subsidies began 20 years ago and are now at their most advanced stage, which are seen as crucial to reaffirming the relevance of the beleaguered body.

The talks, which environmentalists see as the biggest hope of reversing dwindling fish stocks, got a boost in 2015 when UN members imposed restrictions on their Sustainable Development Goals.

WTO Director-General Ngoji Okonjo-Iwela is expected to finalize a deal at a major ministerial conference at its Geneva headquarters starting next month.

One of the most challenging aspects of the talks is the question of exemptions for WTO members with developing country status, some of whom are major subsidies such as China.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said this month, “There are some very difficult issues that need to be addressed … the discussion on exemptions is very difficult.”

Santiago Wills, who is presiding over the talks, has sought to find settlement proposals in his draft text. However, a confidential text submitted by India on 23 September and seen by Businesshala opposed his proposals with additional carvings for developing countries, namely giving them up to 25 years to comply with certain provisions.

This prompted criticism from several wealthy countries, with a delegation saying the talks appeared to be “going backwards”, according to trade sources.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Philippe Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Paul Simao

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