Solidarity at ministerial meet

Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya. Picture: SUPPLIED

Negotiations on fisheries subsidies agreement started more than 20 years ago and still there hasn’t been any conclusion to a meaningful agreement so far.

Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya made the comment in his statement at the plenary session: session on the challenges facing the multilateral trading system at the WTO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.

“Our fish stocks are dwindling together with our livelihoods.

The agreement needs to target large and powerful subsidisers, at the same time, give SIDS the ability to develop its domestic fisheries and the ability to fish their own waters,” he said.

Mr Koya said there were multiple shortfalls with the multilateral trading system, fractures that had become more conspicuous, adding that there was a danger that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Fiji would fall through the ever widening cracks, if ministers did not come together at this Ministerial Conference.

He said their meeting this week indicated the importance they placed on solidarity at the multilateral level to deal with today’s pressing global problems, brought on by climate change and environmental issues; pandemics and inaccessibility to health related goods; rise in supply chain and food security issues; and increase in cost of trading.

In his statement he stressed that while they needed to ensure that the WTO rules addressed the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century, they could not overlook the historical challenges that were yet to be addressed.

“These issues include, the lack of progress on key issues such as the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, integration of SIDS into the global value chains, and most importantly – provision of ample policy space for our development.

“The wrath of climate change grows more violent, almost unabated.

“In the Pacific we are experiencing hurricanes that wiped away years of developmental gains and investments in critical infrastructure, in a matter of hours.”

He said the SIDs wanted the WTO to conscientiously address the issues such as lack of and high cost of transport connectivity, telecommunications, access to financial services for MSMEs in SIDS and if these fundamental differences between have and have-nots persist, a collective and inclusive solution to free and fair trade would continue to evade the SIDs.

“Nevertheless, Fiji, like a number of our fellow members, joined the WTO more than two decades ago.

“We came together to establish a multilateral trading system that offered hope that we were all equal, we are all one. The WTO should reflect this ideal in spirit, and more importantly, in practice, now more than ever.”

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