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Gabon formally accepts Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

Gabon deposited its instrument of acceptance for the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on 12 July, making it the third African country to do so. Ambassador Mireille Sarah Nzenze presented Gabon’s instrument of acceptance to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. More than one-third of the acceptances needed for the agreement to enter into force is now in hand.

DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “I am grateful to Gabon for its formal acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing costs Africa over $2.3 billion in economic losses every year, according to estimates from the African Union Commission, so I am particularly pleased to see another acceptance from the continent. This is the latest sign of Gabon’s commitment to building a truly sustainable ocean environment and economy: the country has created one of the largest marine reserves in Africa, and its Gabon Bleu programme includes measures to fight IUU fishing.  Fish consumption in Gabon is above the global average, and food security in the country stands to gain from the agreement’s rapid entry into force. I hope this serves as an inspiration to other WTO members.”

Ambassador Nzenze said: “A major step was taken on 17 June 2022, when trade ministers reached unanimity and concluded the first phase of the years-long fisheries subsidies negotiations. My country’s authorities, aware of the environmental emergency, including that of saving the oceans, have accelerated the process for the domestic ratification of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. By depositing its instrument of acceptance of that Agreement, Gabon expresses hope that the ongoing negotiations will result in a comprehensive agreement that will take into account the vulnerabilities of a certain number of WTO Members.”

Gabon’s instrument of formal acceptance is the 13th instrument received by the WTO. The list of members that have submitted their acceptance of the Agreement is available here. Acceptances from two-thirds of WTO members are needed for the Agreement to come into effect.

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 obligations.

The Agreement prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing overfished stocks, and ends subsidies 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, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.

The full text of the Agreement can be accessed here. Information for members on how to accept the Protocol of Amendment is available here.

 Credit: WTO

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