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FG expects equitable outcomes on WTO’s fisheries negotiations, says trade minister

by Business News Report

The Federal Government says it will continue to engage in fisheries subsidies negotiations, in order to achieve balanced and equitable outcomes from the forthcoming WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC-12) on fisheries subsidies. Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, said this at a virtual meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Ministers of Trade on Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations. The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will be convened by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. The WTO’s Ministerial Conference, which is held every two years, is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from the organisation’s 164 members. 

The minister noted that the sustainable development of the fisheries sector was central to Nigeria’s quest for economic diversification and sustained growth. According to the minister, it is of critical fundamental importance that the outcomes of the MC-12 are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 and our mandate. SDG 14.6 targets to prohibit certain forms of fisheries’ subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, as well as eliminate subsidies which contribute to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. He said that given that sustainable development of the sector was a viable route to Nigeria’s socioeconomic development, it expected MC-12 outcomes on fisheries subsidies to result in substantial reduction of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices.

Adebayo thanked Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the Chair of the Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations, Amb. Santiago Wills of Colombia, for their efforts at advancing the negotiations. He recalled that the contribution of the fisheries sector to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 0.84 per cent and 1.09 per cent in 2019 and 2020, respectively. “Nigeria, which produces less than a million-metric tonne of fish annually is a net importer of fish. Marine catches contribute about 38 per cent of our annual output. The rest is made up of inland waters catches and aquaculture. Over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s total domestic production is generated by artisanal small-scale fishermen that support the livelihoods of over 24 million Nigerians. 73 per cent of those involved in fisheries in Nigeria are women,” he noted.

He explained that the country, with a continental coastline of 853km and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area of 179,839 sq. kms, contained diverse species of fish, contributing to food and livelihood security of Nigerians. However, he noted that illegal fishing, overfishing and other unsustainable fishing related activities, incentivised by heavy subsidies posed a major threat to sustainable development of Nigeria’s fisheries sector. He advised that the outcomes should also reflect the “mutual supportiveness of trade and environment” by addressing simultaneously the three pillars of sustainable development as envisaged in the Hong Kong and Doha Ministerial Declarations. Adebayo further noted that such outcomes should contain effective Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) that allow for sustainable development of the fisheries sector of developing countries.

The minister described S&DT as an integral part of the sustainability agenda of the WTO, adding that it was also crucial to achieving an acceptable balance of rights and obligations among WTO members. “I am of the view that these S&DT provisions would not only undermine our rights to sustainable exploitation of marine resources in our EEZ, guaranteed by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, but would also undermine efforts to address our food and livelihood security difficulties. Nigeria expects carve-out for developing countries under all pillars in respect of fishing and fishing related activities of low income, resource-poor fishermen within their EEZ, with no preconditions. As well as exemptions of developing countries, with less than two per cent share of annual global marine capture, from some obligations of the disciplines,” he said. (NAN)

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