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The Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Maxim Reshetnikov, took part in a meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee at ministerial level. The first meeting on this scale since 2017 (involving 103 WTO members and 2 observers) was held by videoconference and chaired by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The meeting focused on the fishing subsidies negotiations, which are expected to be completed by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, scheduled to be held between November 30 and December 3, 2021.
These negotiations are aimed at implementing paragraph 14.6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), under which countries have agreed to limit subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, and to limit subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The negotiations have been ongoing for more than 20 years and now, with the support of the UN SDG mandate and global interest in promoting sustainable use of fishery resources, WTO members are close to bring them to a conclusion.
As Maxim Reshetnikov noted in his speech, Russia's aim in the negotiation process is to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and the development of the fishing industry as a whole. Russia therefore criticises an approach to the topic of subsidies that would lead to the complete and unconditional elimination of all subsidies in the industry. In our view, the conservation and management measures applied in Russia allow the fish stocks to be maintained at a sustainable level and, as a consequence, mitigate the possible negative effect of subsidies.
The Minister also emphasized that the common pursuit of sustainable development should not lead to the use of non-competitive measures contrary to WTO rules, and urged WTO members to refrain from promoting opportunistic trade and economic objectives unrelated in practice to the UN mandate.
Overall, at the end of the meeting, despite differences of opinion among WTO members, primarily related to the use of different models for developing the fishery industry, Ministers agreed to continue working on the text of the draft agreement to achieve a universally acceptable outcome that will contribute to the sustainability of fish stocks around the world.