13-nation coalition will negotiate with the World Trade Organization
The Our Ocean Conference, held on September 15-16th, 2016, at the Department of State in Washington DC in the U.S., saw the U.S. forming a coalition with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Singapore, Switzerland, and Uruguay to seek a ban on harmful fishery subsidies. The 13-nation coalition will negotiate with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ban fishing subsidies that contribute to over fishing and over capacity in the sector or are linked to illegal fishing, as reported by Reuters.
United States Trade Representative Michael Froman and representatives from the other 12 nations have committed to move forward with their discussions agenda at the WTO, which will seek to reiterate the reporting and transparency of fisheries subsidies. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 31% of the world’s fisheries were operating at biologically unsustainable levels, with 58% at maximum levels with no scope for growth. Hence, the initiative to eliminate these subsidies would result in significant trade, economic, development, and environmental benefits to all the countries that are part of the coalition.
Subsidies depleting fisheries resources globally
The fisheries subsidies, estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars annually, have been creating a major negative impact on the global fisheries markets in the form of over fishing, over capacity, and the depletion of fisheries resources. The 13-nation coalition is trying to ensure the long-term sustainability of global fisheries, which currently employs and supports more than 50 million workers. The U.S., which has been on the forefront of these negotiations, will seek to introduce new rules that will help protect the marine environment and allow its fishing industry to compete on a level playing field.
U.S. fishing industry at a competitive disadvantage
Apart from creating significant distortions in global fish markets, the harmful fisheries subsidies are negatively impacting marine ecosystems while putting American fishing industries at a huge disadvantage. This is turn has enormous ramifications for the global economy and food security for people working in the global fishing and aquaculture sectors, many in small-scale fisheries that are critical to the economies of their communities. Over three billion people, many of whom live in the poorest and least-developed countries, rely on food from the ocean as a significant source of protein.
U.S. fishing industries support 1.4 million jobs, generate $42 billion in income, and contribute $64 billion annually to U.S. economic output. In 2014, American fishing industries exported 3.4 billion pounds of edible fish products valued at $5.8 billion to markets around the world.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Congress, broke new ground in this area by including the first enforceable prohibitions on harmful fisheries subsidies among 12 Asia Pacific trading partners. Ironically, the TPP may not be approved before President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.
However, the 13-nation coalition’s initiative will build on the progress made in TPP, by bringing in additional trading partners who are committed to ending harmful fisheries subsidies. The U.S. hopes to economically gain from the progress as negotiations move forward at the WTO in Geneva.