China, world’s largest seafood producer accepts WTO deal on fisheries subsidies

China, the world’s leading marine fishing producer, has formally accepted a historic trade agreement for ocean sustainability at the World Economic Forum’s 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

It will help bring into force a global deal struck a year ago by the World Trade Organization’s 164 members to work towards eliminating billions of dollars in “harmful” subsidies that are emptying the oceans of fish. The agreement prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing overfished stocks and ends subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. The World Economic Forum, through the Friends of Ocean Action, has been a long-term supporter of the global agreement along with businesses, ocean experts and civil society organizations.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization, received the document from Wang Wentao, Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, at the World Economic Forum’s 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions. With an estimated 564,000 ships, China in 2020 had the biggest fishing fleet in the world, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“As the world leader in marine fish catch, China’s support for the implementation of this agreement is critical to multilateral efforts to safeguard oceans, food security and livelihoods. By curbing harmful fishing subsidies worldwide, we can together forge a path towards a legacy of abundance and opportunity for generations to come,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

Under trade rules, two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 members must ratify the deal for it to take effect. China’s support now means that 36 countries, including all European Union members, have formally accepted it, and the aim is to have the remaining countries do the same before the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in February next year. Members have also committed to continuing negotiations to expand the scope to include subsidies that support excessive fishing.