China – which has the world’s biggest fishing fleet – has formally accepted an agreement to cut state subsidies for the fisheries sector.
The World Trade Organization said on Tuesday China had agreed to a deal struck by WTO members last year.
Under a rare global deal to update trade rules struck a year ago, the WTO’s 164 members agreed to work towards eliminating billions of dollars in “harmful” subsidies that are emptying the oceans of fish.
However, two thirds of the members must ratify the deal in order for it to take effect and some clauses have not yet been finalised.
The WTO website showed that only 11 countries have so far formally accepted it, although that includes European Union members.
“As the world leader in marine fish catch, China’s support for the implementation of this agreement is critical to multilateral efforts to safeguard oceans, food security, and livelihoods,” WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement at the World Economic Forum’s 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions in northern China’s Tianjin city.
China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said the country would “work with all members to push the agreement to enter into force” and work on the second phase of negotiations “in a positive and constructive manner”.
Global subsidies are estimated at $35.4 billion, according to a 2019 study published in Marine Policy.
The top five subsidisers are China, the EU, the United States, South Korea and Japan, it said, although not all of them are considered “harmful” and are within the scope of the WTO deal.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard