WASHINGTON, Sept 14 The United States and 12
other countries will start World Trade Organization negotiations
to ban harmful fishery subsidies, particularly those that
contribute to overfishing and overcapacity in the sector or are
linked to illegal fishing, they said on Wednesday.
The countries said in a joint statement issued on the eve of
a major oceans conference in Washington that 31 percent of the
world's fisheries were operating at biologically unsustainable
levels, with 58 percent at maximum levels with no room to grow.
"Fisheries subsidies, estimated to be in the tens of
billions of dollars annually, create significant distortions in
global fish markets and are a major factor contributing to
overfishing and overcapacity and the depletion of fisheries
resources," the group said in the statement.
Besides the United States, the fishing anti-subsidy
coalition includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile,
Colombia, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru,
Singapore, Switzerland and Uruguay.
The WTO negotiations also will aim to strengthen the
reporting and transparency of fishery subsidies.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the coalition
was trying to ensure the long-term sustainability of global
fisheries, which support more than 50 million workers. Another 3
billion people, often in poor countries, rely on food from the
ocean as a significant source of protein.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which has not been
approved by the U.S. Congress and may not see a vote before
President Barack Obama leaves office in January, includes a ban
on harmful fishery subsidies among its 12 member countries.
"The United States has been a leader on this issue," Froman
said in a statement. "We are eager to join with similarly
committed WTO members to negotiate new rules that will help
protect the marine environment and allow American fishermen and
women to compete on a fair and level playing field."
U.S. fishing industries support 1.4 million jobs, generate
$42 billion in income and contribute $64 billion annually to
U.S. economic output, the USTR said.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)