The Buenos Aires Ministerial Decision of 13 December 2017 on Fisheries Subsidies (the BA Ministerial Decision) marks more than 20 years since the issue of subsidies to fisheries was raised at the World Trade Organization (WTO), originally under the auspices of Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), and later the Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR), and more than 25 years since the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) drew attention to the “potential of subsidies to stimulate overcapacity and over-fishing”.
The checkered and protracted history of the negotiations, despite the sustained engagement of many WTO Members and the pressing nature of the issue at hand (a “perplexing” situation in the words of one proponent), reflects the challenges of effective, multilateral negotiations at the WTO. Nevertheless, the BA Ministerial Decision promises that progress can be made notwithstanding these challenges.
As the BA Ministerial Decision heralds, further work is still required, and the constructive engagement of Members will be critical to achieving the goal of “an agreement on comprehensive and effective disciplines” on fisheries subsidies in the inter-Ministerial Conference interval.
The BA Ministerial Decision obliges Members to continue to constructively engage in the fisheries subsidies negotiations in order to come to an agreement by the next Ministerial Conference in 2019, in line with the 2020 deadline set by target 14.6 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG Target 14.6)
From now to the next Ministerial Conference, it is inevitable that new Members will join the negotiations, new proposals will be submitted to the NGR, and new diplomats will succeed their (understandably weary) colleagues. This handbook aims to provide a reference point for new Members and new negotiators who join the fisheries subsidies negotiations. It introduces the background and history of the negotiations, analyses its most challenging elements, and explains the development of those elements in the negotiations.
This handbook is structured in three main parts. The first part provides a summary of the development of the negotiations on the fisheries subsidies within the WTO. The second part discusses the key elements in the negotiations, highlighting the most challenging issues. The final part briefly illustrates the way forward for the negotiations in order to achieve the deadlines set by the BA Ministerial Decision and SDG Target 14.6.
The full Handbook can be accessed here.