Hong Kong - During his remarks today at a high-level WTO
Ministerial environment event, US Trade Representative Rob Portman welcomed the
strong support by the presidents of eleven major environmental non-governmental
organizations of efforts in the WTO to strengthen rules on fisheries subsidies.
The groups say that high levels of global subsidies are contributing to the
overfishing of nearly 75 percent of the world's fish stocks and the resulting
disruption of marine ecosystems worldwide.
"I welcome the support we have received from environmental
groups on our efforts to curb fisheries subsidies that contribute to
overfishing, and I am pleased that they are helping to raise the visibility of
this issue in the global community," said Ambassador Portman. "Stronger rules to
curb these subsidies will be a very significant accomplishment for the WTO in
the Doha Development Agenda."
"These negotiations on fisheries are ground breaking. For the
first time, the WTO is addressing a problem with direct and immediate
consequences not only for trade but also for the marine environment and
sustainable development. The high levels of subsidies are part of the reason
that nearly 75% of fish stock are at risk. The need for action is clear." Ambassador Portman has worked closely
with several of the environmental groups to advance the fisheries subsidies
negotiations. He made the remarks at an event sponsored by the United Nations
Environmental Programme and World Wildlife Fund-International, and attended by
other leading ministers, to highlight the importance of negotiations in helping
to curb overfishing while promoting trade and sustainable development.
Signatories to the letter include Oceana, the Center for
International Environmental Law, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense,
Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the
National Wildlife Federation, the Ocean Conservancy, the U.S. Public Interest
Research Group and the World Wildlife Fund. The letter follows other recent
letters from the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Working Group
expressing support for the United States' efforts.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization, 75% of the world's fish stocks are either overexploited, fully
exploited, depleted or recovering depletion, while global subsidy levels are
estimated at between $10-15 billion annually - approximately 20-25% of the $56
billion commercial trade in fish.
The United States has been a leader in pressing for stronger
rules, including a prohibition on the most harmful subsidies that contribute to
overcapacity and overfishing. The United States is working closely with a number
of developed and developing countries to advance the negotiations, including
Australia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand and Peru.
Negotiations on fisheries subsidies are taking place in the Negotiating Group on
Click here for a copy of the letter.