By Emma Farge
GENEVA – A fisheries deal at the World Trade Organization is “within reach”, but members still need to make improvements to the draft agreement, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said on Friday.
Trade ministers gather virtually next week to try and clinch a deal on curbing subsidies that contribute to overfishing after 20 years of discussions.
The Geneva-based trade body has not concluded a multilateral trade deal for years and has particularly struggled with fisheries – delegates only agreed on the definition of “fish” last December.
“The United States wants a ‘win’ for the WTO, for the fish, and for workers,” a USTR official said in an emailed statement to Reuters that alluded to a U.S. proposal to curb the use of forced labour on fishing vessels.
“We believe it is within reach, but it will require all Members to make and support improvements to the text that will lead us to a meaningful outcome.”
The United States is just one of the Geneva-based body’s 164 members which all need to agree to trade deals by consensus. However, in practice it calls many of the shots and negotiators will be looking for cues from Washington in the coming days.
The official, who did not wish to be named, said the push to conclude these talks would be a “true test for the WTO“. “It is not enough to have an agreement for agreement’s sake,” the official added.