Readout of Ambassador María L. Pagán’s Meetings During WTO’s Second “Fish Week”

April 28, 2023

GENEVA – Deputy United States Trade Representative María L. Pagán participated in meetings at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the second phase of negotiations of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies from April 25 – April 28, 2023.  This was the second of four “Fish Weeks” scheduled so far in 2023.  During these meetings, Ambassador Pagán conveyed the United States’ position on the remaining issues under discussion, in particular the approach for disciplining fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.
Ambassador Pagán noted U.S. support for an ambitious, sustainability-focused approach to the remaining disciplines, and emphasized that the most egregious, harmful subsidies, such as those that are specifically directed to fishing beyond a WTO Member’s own jurisdiction, must be prohibited.  Ambassador Pagán also emphasized the need for WTO Members to support greater transparency as it relates to forced labor on fishing vessels.
Ambassador María Pagán’s messages included the following:
WTO Members did a lot of good work in lead-up to MC12, but we couldn’t reach agreement on how to discipline subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.  We don’t need to start from scratch, but simply picking up where we left off also isn’t a winning strategy.  The United States is interested in working with Members on new ideas that help us to avoid reaching another impasse or discussing a hundred different ways to carve Members out of the disciplines we’re negotiating. 
Finding a way forward can’t be about continuing the search for the three magic numbers—the level of a de minimis exclusion, the length of transition periods, or the scope of geographical carveouts—that consumed Members’ attention in the lead-up to and during MC12.  Those discussions were not successful before, and would in essence lead to nearly two-thirds of the WTO Membership being carved out of the discipline in perpetuity and therefore able to subsidize unsustainably, forever.  The goal is to address harmful subsidization.  We can’t have major fishing nations and major subsidizers maintaining current practices, regardless of whether the Member is developed or developing.
The United States also continues to support enhanced transparency related to forced labor on fishing vessels.  There is a role for WTO Members to shine a spotlight on this egregious practice.