Australia plays role in fisheries deal

·1-min read

Australia has played a key role in striking the first World Trade Organisation treaty focused on environment issues.

A historic deal on fisheries subsidies has been agreed at the WTO ministerial conference in Geneva after a marathon five-day negotiation.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said a partnership between Australia and Fiji had led to consensus being found across the WTO's 164 members.

"Australia and Fiji worked in consultation with other Pacific island countries represented at the conference, including Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu," Senator Farrell said in a statement.

Pacific island members have long argued a treaty is needed to deal with the problem of fish subsidies, which contribute to overfishing and a decline in global fish stocks.

The treaty builds on WTO subsidy rules, to prohibit and discipline harmful subsidies.

Senator Farrell said negotiators from Australia, Fiji and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat had insisted on its inclusion in the conference outcomes.

Negotiators also pressed for a "high ambition" provision, to tackle subsidies to long-distance fleets on the Pacific Ocean - which are considered to be the most harmful to fish stocks in the region.

"The successful outcome will provide a boost both for Pacific island economies, and for the confidence in the multilateral trading system, as the deal is the most substantial treaty negotiated at the WTO in a decade," Senator Farrell said.

It would also go some way to meeting one of the UN's sustainable development goals, on ocean sustainability.

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