MINISTER of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon and Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat led a TT delegation which attended the virtual meeting of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) trade negotiations committee ministerial meeting earlier this week.
The local delegation also included technocrats from both ministries as well as representatives from TT’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.
The meeting focused on advancing an agreement which seeks to limit harmful fisheries subsidies.
WTO negotiations to reduce fishing subsidies began in 2001 and 20 years later, the aim of member countries is to finalise an agreement later this year.
In 2015, negotiations were given a major push when the UN adopted Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 14:6, which calls for removal of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The fisheries sector is essential to many countries and TT is no exception.
Fishing styles which deplete fishing stocks or are illegal, unreported and unregulated negatively affect ecological sustainability, food security, livelihoods, incomes and jobs.
The global problem of depleting fish stocks is exacerbated when countries give subsidies that encourage fishing which negatively affects fishing stocks.
The main contributors to the problem are countries that subsidise large-scale industrial fishing vessels which engage in distant-water fishing.
Rambharat addressed the meeting on behalf of the delegation and emphasised TT’s commitment to negotiating an agreement that would limit and effectively discipline harmful fisheries subsidies.
With TT’s fish catch at a minuscule 0.02 per cent of global catches, Rambharat highlighted that larger fishing countries which contribute to the problem should be a greater part of the solution.
He underscored the importance of fisheries resources to the livelihood and well-being of TT, particularly the coastal and rural communities, such as the community in which he grew up.
Rambharat also emphasised that Developing and Least Developed Country (LDC) members must be afforded flexibility to address their sustainability and development needs.
In the negotiations these flexibilities are collectively referred to as Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT), and he expressed that S&DT should remain an essential component of the Agreement. He also stressed the need for policy space to pursue the country’s economic development.
WTO director general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala noted there is still work to be done, but was heartened by the ministers' support for concluding a meaningful agreement later this year to address this global problem.