USTR - Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman - World Wildlife Fund and UN Environment Program Fisheries Event, World Trade Ministerial, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center
Office of the United States Trade Representative


Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman - World Wildlife Fund and UN Environment Program Fisheries Event, World Trade Ministerial, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Jim, thank you very much and to my colleagues who are here, and to our guests, I want to thank Jim and WWF and also thank UNEP for organizing this event.

Much more importantly, I want to thank them, as well as other NGOs who are here today, for bringing this issue to the forefront. You all are the ones that brought this issue up initially.  It was kind of a sleeper -- an issue that not many people focused on.  And now it's become an issue that really gives us another reason for us to conclude this overall Doha agreement, because it is so promising and so important in terms of reducing over-fishing.

And it's something -- I agree with Jim -- where we seem to be having somewhat of a convergence, as compared to some other areas where we seem not to able to break the deadlock.  So it's an honor to be here, to highlight the importance of these negotiations, and to thank you all for all your hard work.

I want to note that -- although my colleague from Senegal's not here -- if you look at this group of members and others who are involved in "Friends of Fish," it includes a broad group of countries, developing and developed countries, and it's a reflection I think of the broad support for action to ensure the sustainability of the world's marine resources as part of our Doha round negotiations.

This is truly a ground-breaking opportunity for Doha.  For the first time, the WTO is addressing a problem that has direct and immediate consequences, not only for trade but also, again, for the marine environment and sustainable development. 

The need for action is very clear. The figures show that 75% of fish stocks are currently at risk, and there's no longer any doubt that the high levels of subsidies worldwide are part of the problem.

The WTO, a body that has [inaudible] on subsidies, has an historic opportunity here to play an important role to put the world's fisheries back on track through strong and enforceable subsidy rules. I particularly like to acknowledge the roles again that so many NGO's have played in bringing these issues to the forefront. I appreciate your working tirelessly with our negotiators to ensure an ambitious result.

I want the United States to continue to be a leader in this.  I want us to continue to be heavily involved in the negotiation to work closely with our colleagues in "Friends of Fish."  I think it is significant that we seem to be reaching, as said, some convergence on this, and I think we need to seek rules that are simple, enforceable and promote much greater transparency than is the case today. 

At the same time, we do need to recognize that some programs that serve important policy goals in improving fisheries, sustainability, are goals, are policies that need to be complementary to what we do in the WTO.

The WTO needs to be careful not to exceed its mandate.  Our competence in the WTO, again, is more on the subsidy side.  We must work closely with other organizations that have expertise in fisheries management, and that would of course include the FAO, as well as other organizations. 

My sense is we've got that balance about right.  I think we need to be careful not to overreach in that area. We are committed to achieving real results in this issue and in many other issues in this round.  I don't think we have the luxury of time in this case.  We need to do our part now, to do everything we can to resolve the world's global fisheries crisis, which will benefit us in terms of trade, but also have a very direct benefit on the environment. 

So again Jim, thank you very much and congratulations to you and UNEP on all your hard work. We look forward to continuing to work with you.

Thank you.

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