On 20 January, Switzerland became the first WTO member to formally submit its acceptance of the WTO’s new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, paving the way for the historic agreement for ocean sustainability to enter into force. Swiss Minister Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, presented his country’s instrument of acceptance to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the informal WTO ministerial meeting held on the side lines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “I am very grateful to Switzerland for its leadership in being the first WTO member to submit its instrument of acceptance of the historic new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. Switzerland’s action will create real momentum for more WTO members to formally accept the Agreement. Given that the landmark agreement was adopted during the 12th Ministerial Conference in 2022 held in Geneva, the location of the WTO, Switzerland is a fitting pioneer in the acceptance process, allowing the WTO to finally deliver our contribution to safeguarding global fish stocks and the livelihood and food security of millions of people worldwide.”
Mr Parmelin said: “Switzerland is the first WTO member to ratify the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The prohibition of harmful marine capture subsidies is a major contribution of the multilateral trading system towards achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.”
Adopted by consensus at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in Geneva on 12-17 June 2022, the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies sets new binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks. In addition, the Agreement recognizes the needs of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) and establishes a Fund to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help them implement the Agreement.
The Agreement prohibits subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and bans subsidies for fishing overfished stocks and for fishing on the unregulated high seas. Members also agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13 for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.
Acceptances from two-thirds of WTO members are needed for the Agreement to come into effect.