House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI), joined by a bipartisan group of 10 committee members, gave their support to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab today in the ongoing WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies. The letter also urges the United States to make the successful outcome of the fisheries subsidies negotiations a trade priority.
"This show of support from Congress reaffirms the deep commitment of the United States to significantly reduce global fisheries subsidies," said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. "Congress recognizes that the United States and the WTO have an important role in addressing problems of global consequence, including overfishing."
The Ways and Means Committee letter follows a series of actions by the U.S. Congress on fisheries subsidies. In 2007, both the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions calling for international leadership by the United States to ban destructive fishing subsidies (H.Con.Res.94, S.Res.208).
Starting July 21, trade ministers will convene in Geneva for critical WTO negotiations on agriculture and industrial goods (NAMA). Although fisheries subsidies is not on the limited agenda for the ministerial meeting, it remains an important component of the overall Doha trade round.
Leading up to next week's ministerial, the United States submitted a new proposal at the WTO today that underscores the increased urgency and need for multilateral rules to control and reduce global fisheries subsidies. The paper, which is co-sponsored by Australia and New Zealand, seeks an ambitious result in the ongoing WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations.
"The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are the best opportunity to reverse global overfishing on an international scale," said Sakai. "The United States has again helped to advance the fisheries subsidies negotiations by cutting through the rhetoric of less constructive countries and standing up for strong measures to reduce subsidies. The United States has made it clear that an agreement that simply preserves the status quo on fisheries subsidies is not acceptable."
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Reducing fisheries subsidies is one of the most significant actions that can be taken to address global overfishing. Subsidies promote overfishing, pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be possible. Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.