Four former United States Trade Representatives today urged President Obama for leadership at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reduce government subsidies that are driving the world’s oceans to collapse and to capture the opportunity to set a historic precedent for trade and the environment.
In a letter, Ambassadors William E. Brock, Carla A. Hills, Susan C. Schwab and Clayton Yeutter wrote, “The United States needs to seize the opportunity at the WTO to put an end to the subsidies that threaten the productivity of the world’s fisheries. The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are at a critical phase and their success is by no means certain. The United States must send a clear signal that a genuine ‘win’ on fisheries subsidies remains a core priority of its international trade agenda.”
Recognizing the President’s commitment to economic growth and environmental protection, the Ambassadors also highlighted the urgency of a WTO fisheries subsidies agreement and the consequences to the economy, jobs, and environment if the United States fails to act.
“The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are one of the most important, and most promising, international efforts to stop global overfishing. The fisheries subsidies negotiations represent the first time that the WTO has agreed to directly address a key environmental issue. A strong fisheries subsidies agreement would set an historic precedent by showing that trade can directly benefit the environment while promoting jobs, exports, and open markets,” continued the Ambassadors.
Oceana’s CEO Andrew Sharpless is also meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today about the need for renewed international leadership by the United States to reduce government subsidies that lead to overfishing.
Last week, the WTO issued a new report on the fisheries subsidies negotiations from Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Rules Dennis Francis, also Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago. The 20-page paper described the large amount of progress made in the fisheries subsidies negotiations in recent months, the consensus by WTO members of the importance and urgency of this issue, and the need for collective action for a successful outcome.
More than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as a key source of protein. Fishing activities support coastal communities and hundreds of millions of people who depend on fishing for all or part of their income.
But now, nearly all of the world’s fish populations in every part of the world are severely depleted from overfishing. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. This is the highest percentage since FAO began keeping records and is a 10 percent increase from four years ago.
Despite the precarious state of the oceans, many governments continue to provide significant subsidies that push their fleets to fish longer, harder, and farther away than otherwise would be possible. Destructive fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $16 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 20 percent of the value of the world catch. The scope and effects of these “overfishing subsidies” are so significant that eliminating them is the single greatest action that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the 153-country organization responsible for negotiating the rules governing international trade and settling related disputes. In 2001, recognizing the relevance of subsidies to trade and the importance of a healthy fishery resource to commerce and development, the WTO initiated a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of its Doha trade agenda.
For more information, please visit www.cutthebait.org.