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World Trade Organization

The United States has been a global leader in seeking to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies, promoting a trade facilitative approach to the Circular Economy, and eliminating barriers to trade in environmental technologies and services, including clean energy technologies, through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Fisheries Subsidies

High levels of overcapacity and over-fishing worldwide are a problem of global concern – with governments subsidizing too many boats to catch ever-declining fish stocks.   Global fish stocks are in crisis, with 90% now fully exploited, overexploited or entirely depleted.   At the 2017 WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, trade ministers renewed their call for an “agreement on comprehensive and effective disciplines that prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to IUU-fishing.”  The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations offer the WTO an historic opportunity to contribute to solutions that benefit trade, the environment and sustainable development.

More information on the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies can be found here.

In the WTO negotiations, the United States continues to aim high to achieve a meaningful multilateral fisheries subsidies agreement, including limits on the world’s largest subsidizers, such as China, the world’s largest producer, exporter and subsidizer.  The United States has been actively engaged in advancing the negotiations and continues to press for ambitious disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies that would apply to all Members regardless of development status, in particular those that are the largest producers, exporters and subsidizers of marine wild capture fisheries.

In 2019, the United States played a leadership role in seeking a meaningful outcome by working with other Members such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay to develop new proposals and bridging ideas, including enhanced transparency and notification requirements;  a proposal to “cap and reduce” subsidies to limit the total value of major producers (including the EU and China); and prohibitions on subsidies to vessels determined to be IUU fishing, subsidies to overfished stocks, subsidies contingent on fishing outside the Member’s EEZ and those  to vessels not flying the Member’s own flag. While these proposals directly address the worst forms of industrial fishing subsidies, Members at all levels of development continue to press for exceptions and other carve-outs from the prohibitions, while top subsidizers argue that their own fisheries subsidies are beneficial.

Following the cancellation of the WTO Ministerial Conference originally planned for June 2020, the negotiations are now aiming to conclude by the end of 2020.  The United States will continue to engage actively and constructively, to ensure that new disciplines on fisheries subsidies are effective in addressing the subsidies that most drive overfishing or support IUU fishing.  A successful conclusion will require meaningful constraints on the largest producers and exporters’ subsidy programs.

Recent statements made by the U.S. Mission to the WTO can be found here.

WTO Committee on Trade and Environment

The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) was created by the WTO General Council on January 31, 1995, pursuant to the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Trade and Environment.

Since then, the CTE has discussed many important issues, including:

  • Market access associated with environmental measures;
  • Environment provisions in regional trade agreements;
  • Sustainable materials management, including shifting the resource-use model to a trade facilitative circular economy model;
  • Trade-related provisions in multilateral environmental agreements;
  • Capacity-building and environmental reviews

Related links:

More on Environment in the WTO

Dispute resolution involving environment issues

For more information on Trade and Environment work at the WTO click here.