Sunday, April 14, 2024

Australia/Fiji alliance ‘saved’ fisheries deal


Australia’s Minister for Trade and Tourism claims a historic new deal on fisheries subsidies agreed at the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva after a marathon five-day negotiation was saved by an alliance between Australia and Fiji.

Australia was represented by newly elected Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell (pictured), and Assistant Minister for Trade, Tim Ayres.

Minister Farrell said the alliance between Australia and Fiji saved the outcome of the talks, with the two nations working in consultation with other Pacific Island countries represented at the Conference, including Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

“Pacific Members have consistently identified a treaty to deal with the problem of fish subsidies as one of their highest priorities at the WTO,” he said.

“Subsidies contribute to the problem of over-fishing, and the decline in global fish stocks is a growing problem. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) studies have highlighted that the depletion of global fish stocks is an ongoing problem.”

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell.

The treaty builds on WTO subsidy rules, to prohibit and discipline harmful subsidies.

“In the last hours of the Conference, negotiators from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat helped save the fisheries subsidies deal, insisting on its inclusion in the Conference outcomes, despite it being put in the ‘too hard basket’ by other negotiators,” said Mr Farrell.

To ensure the treaty worked best for the Pacific region and delivered maximum environmental benefit, he said negotiators also pressed for a “high ambition” provision, to tackle subsidies to long-distance fleets on the Pacific Ocean.

“Australia and Fiji worked together closely in the talks to insist on a treaty upgrade within four years to tackle subsidies which lead to overcapacity and overfishing. This innovative new provision will reduce overfishing on the high seas by major fishing nations with long-distance fleets, the type of fishing that is most harmful to fish stocks in the Pacific region.”

“The successful outcome will provide a boost both for Pacific Island economies, and for the confidence in the multilateral trading system, as the deal is the most substantial treaty negotiated at the WTO in a decade. It is also the first treaty focused on environment issues struck at the WTO, helping meet one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, on ocean sustainability,” said Minister Farrell.

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