WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today signed the United States Instrument of Acceptance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and presented the acceptance to WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during an in-person event. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai underscored the United States’ continued commitment to working with WTO Members to protect the environment from harmful and unsustainable practices. Ambassador Tai also highlighted the importance of building on the Agreement to help improve the lives of fishers and workers in the United States and around the world.
Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I especially want to extend my warm welcome to Dr. Ngozi—it’s always great to see you, especially on an important day like this.
When President Biden asked me to serve as his Trade Representative, he gave me a task—to demonstrate that the United States is back on the world stage as a genuine partner. And since day one, we have been committed teammates within the World Trade Organization and with its Members.
The United States is engaging at all levels to ensure that the institution delivers tangible results, fit for the times. Our collective work to conclude the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies during last years’ Ministerial Conference is proof that this vision is attainable.
The United States has been a leader in protecting our shared environment from harmful and unsustainable practices, including our oceans and marine resources—and those whose livelihoods depend on them.
I am pleased to announce that, today, the United States is submitting our instrument of acceptance of the Agreement—and we are proud to be among the first WTO Members to do so.
Harmful subsidies have real consequences—they not only deplete our fisheries resources, but they also create unfair competition for U.S. and other fishers and workers that compete fairly.
I was in Oregon last April, with Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representative Bonamici. And as we toured a groundfish vessel and spoke with local fishers, it became clear how our fishers have had to row upstream against harmful subsidies to sustain their livelihoods.
That is why this Agreement is critical—it will enable these fishers to compete on a level playing field and succeed. It shows that—when done right—trade can be a force for good.
We all know that this Agreement did not come about overnight. For more than two decades, WTO Members have negotiated on addressing harmful subsidies in the fisheries sector.
And through U.S. leadership, and together with other WTO Members, we finally achieved this groundbreaking Agreement during MC12 last June.
This Agreement is the first ever multilateral trade agreement with environmental sustainability at its core. It prohibits subsidies for those engaged in illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing; for fishing overfished stocks; and for fishing on the unregulated high seas.
It also includes robust transparency provisions regarding the fisheries subsidies and practices of WTO Members.
Today marks an important step, but our work is far from complete.
The United States will continue to encourage other WTO Members to accept the Agreement so we can bring it into force quickly—because disciplining harmful fisheries subsidies benefits all WTO Members.
We will also continue to lead by example in the remaining negotiations to build on this Agreement. We want additional, ambitious disciplines, which will improve the lives of fishers and workers here in the United States and elsewhere.
We will also continue to encourage Members to support greater transparency on the use of forced labor on fishing vessels.
There are many colleagues that made today possible, like our amazing USTR negotiating team who is here with us today.
I would also like to thank our U.S. government colleagues, especially the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of State.
This would also not be possible without the many stakeholders who fought for progress on this issue, so I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you as well, including Pew, who is also here today.
This truly is a partnership, and our stakeholders have pushed us and other WTO Members to maintain a laser focus on the true beneficiaries of this new Agreement—our oceans, our fisheries, our fishers, and our communities.
It is fitting that we are doing this just a few days before Earth Day. Mother Earth’s resources are finite—but our potential is limitless when we work together to do trade the right way.
I am excited to see what comes next, and the United States will remain committed to working with the WTO, its Membership, and stakeholders to build on this achievement.
Thank you again, and now, I will turn it over to my friend and colleague, Dr. Ngozi.