WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: U.S. Formally Accepts WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

April 12, 2023

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai yesterday signed and presented the United States’ official instrument of acceptance of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The Agreement determines disciplines for WTO members engaged in harmful fisheries subsidies, and marks the first ever multilateral agreement that has environmental sustainability at its core. The Agreement also demonstrates the Biden Administration’s commitment to sustained engagement at the WTO to ensure that the institution delivers tangible results, fit for the times.

Elected officials and industry leaders applauded Ambassador Tai’s leadership and emphasized the importance of USTR’s ongoing commitment to advance climate-conscious, worker-centered trade policy.

Read more about what they are saying:

Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): “Cracking down on illegal fisheries subsidies protects our natural resources, curbs overfishing, and holds bad actors accountable. We commend Ambassador Tai for her leadership and work to make the United States one of the early adopters of this historic agreement, the first environmental agreement at the WTO. This agreement represents a major step to protect the world’s fisheries, but more must be done to combat overfishing and overcapacity and to root out forced labor from the fishing sector. We urge other WTO members to follow suit, to build on the success of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, and to strive toward consensus on joint efforts to address these challenges in the lead up to MC13.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR): "While there’s still more work to be done, this agreement is an important first step towards cracking down on harmful government subsidies that deplete fishing stocks and undercut the hardworking fishers in the Pacific Northwest and around the country. I’ve been pushing for this agreement for well over a decade, and I hope the United States’ continued leadership will encourage our trading partners to implement this agreement as soon as possible and keep working towards even stronger commitments."

Senate Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee Tom Carper (D-DE):  “I applaud Ambassador Tai for taking action to ratify the WTO agreement on fishery subsidies, which will help protect our oceans and reduce unsustainable fishing practices. This agreement is proof that we can tackle tough issues - and protect our planet - when we work together, and I hope our trading partners will move quickly to join us to bring the deal into force.”

Co-Founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): “This agreement is an important step towards leveling the playing field for the domestic fishing industry and cracking down on illegal fishing practices,” said Whitehouse.  “I applaud the Biden administration on this historic step and look forward to our continued partnership to expand the agreement.”

Co-Chair of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR):  “As the representative for Oregon’s North Coast and as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus, I know that fisheries in our state are feeling squeezed by the uneven standards of foreign competitors, as well as climate threats like hypoxia. Fishing is important to our economy, culture, and way of life in the Pacific NW. I’m grateful for Ambassador Tai’s leadership to level the playing field for our fisheries at the global level.”

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “It's going to really encourage both large and small countries to move on it. That's why it's so good. They're coming at the beginning, not at the end,” she said. The former Nigerian finance minister, who has recently began her third year as WTO chief, said she also saw the U.S. move “in its broader context as a demonstration of the enduring commitment of the United States to the WTO and to multilateralism.”

World Wildlife Fund Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Alejandro Pérez: “Overfishing is destructive to our oceans, ecosystems and coastal communities. Ambassador Tai and the US’ quick action to sign this important Agreement provides the leadership needed to reduce harmful fishing subsidies and advance healthier marine ecosystems and stronger coastal communities. It is urgent for WTO members to expedite the domestic acceptance process so the world can be one step closer to achieving ocean sustainability.”