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Ditch Long-Held Positions, WTO Chair Urges In Key Fisheries Talks

The World Trade Organisation has made only modest progress on a deal to cut global fishing subsidies because member states have yet to feel "uncomfortable" in sticking to long-held positions, a document showed.

Reaching a deal on fishing subsidies is seen as vital to restoring the Geneva-based body's credibility after its top appeals court collapsed last week because the United States blocked the appointment of new judges.

WTO officials are betting on a deal by a mid-2020 conference.

'Serious Setback'

Noting that failure to reach agreement by a December deadline had represented a "serious setback", Colombian chair Santiago Wills noted it was "quite worrying" that only "quite modest" progress had been made on working papers since July.

"What is evident is that Members are still holding onto their well-known positions, even at this late stage," said Wills in a 6 December report, marked "Restricted" in red, seen by Reuters."... Each delegation will need to become very uncomfortable."

A deal on cutting global subsidies worth over $30 billion annually is seen as crucial to help buoy global fish stocks but talks have drifted for 20 years and have struggled to find a chair in recent months.

Closed-Door Talks

The last closed-door talks took place in Geneva in early December with delegations including major users of subsidies such as China and the European Union.

Wills, 33, who has not yet spoken publicly on the talks, told Reuters last week after the confidential document was circulated that members had expressed their commitment to reaching a deal by the Kazakhstan conference in June.

"These are negotiations that need all possible support. It's very encouraging that (the delegations) want a meaningful result for MC12," he said, referring to the ministerial conference. Six rounds of talks are scheduled before then.

News by Reuters, edited by Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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