U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Appeal to USTR Ron Kirk: America Needs a WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement
Press Release Date: July 13, 2011
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives today urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for renewed leadership as the World Trade Organization (WTO) considers new rules on fisheries subsidies in anticipation of its ministerial meeting in December. The members stressed that a core priority of the U.S. at the WTO must be the reduction of government subsidies responsible for driving the world’s oceans to the brink of collapse.
In a letter led by Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI) and Dave Reichert (R-WA), and signed by 30 members of the House, the bipartisan group stated that, “U.S. leadership on this issue will demonstrate the potential the WTO holds for tackling issues of trade and the environment. We believe strong provisions to reduce and control global fisheries subsidies are a ‘must have’ for the United States at the WTO, and we ask that you ensure a timely and ambitious agreement on this issue is produced from the present negotiations.”
A letter led by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and joined by a bipartisan group of 10 senators, highlighted the urgency and consequences if the United States fails to act.
“Commercial and recreational fisheries supply more than 2 million jobs in the United States. Subsidies unfairly disadvantage American producers and workers, and they undermine coastal communities by reducing the costs of operations for foreign fishing fleets and increasing the number, size, and power of boats competing for fish. Subsidies also undermine U.S. trade opportunities in potential export markets,” the senators wrote.
Nearly all of the world’s fish populations 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. Many governments 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 World Trade Organization (WTO) is the 153-country organization responsible for negotiating the rules governing international trade and settling related disputes. The WTO has been engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of its Doha trade agenda.
For more information, please visit www.cutthebait.org.