S’pore becomes 2nd country to support global agreement ending harmful fisheries subsidies

Ambassador Tan Hung Seng, Singapore's Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation, submitting the formal acceptance to WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. PHOTO: WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION

SINGAPORE – Singapore has become the second member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ratify its agreement to protect the world’s oceans.

On Friday, the Republic formally accepted the treaty – the first multilateral trade agreement that focuses on environmental sustainability – becoming the first coastal state to do so.

The agreement sets global rules that ban harmful fishing subsidies – a key factor behind the depletion of the world’s fishing stocks, said the WTO, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Singapore’s support follows that of Switzerland, which ratified the agreement on Jan 20.

For the agreement to become operational, two-thirds of the WTO’s 164 members have to deposit their instruments of acceptance with the organisation.

The multilateral agreement prohibits support for illegal, unreported and unregulated marine wild capture fishing, as well as for fishing overfished stocks and for fishing on unregulated high seas.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “Singapore’s formal acceptance of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is an important step towards its entry into force.

“It adds to the diversity of economies needed for the collective effort to uphold ocean sustainability worldwide.”

Singapore has been a stalwart supporter of the multilateral trading system and an active participant in both the fisheries subsidies negotiations and ongoing discussions on trade and environment, Dr Okonjo-Iweala noted.

The agreement, reached in June 2022, came after more than two decades of negotiations, according to independent think-tank International Institute for Sustainable Development. It also establishes a fund to help developing and least-developed countries support sustainability in fisheries and end harmful fisheries subsidies.

To date, WTO members including Japan, Australia and the European Union have pledged millions to the fund in technical assistance and capacity-building for these countries to implement the agreement’s obligations.

Negotiations to discuss outstanding issues are ongoing.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said: “As a firm supporter of the rules-based multilateral trading system, Singapore welcomes this landmark agreement – the first WTO agreement with an environmental focus.”

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong lauded the agreement’s move to curb harmful fisheries subsidies to prevent the depletion of fish stocks, boost food security and protect the livelihoods of those who depend on marine fisheries. “We encourage other WTO members to also deposit their instrument of acceptance so that we can collectively see the benefits of the agreement coming to fruition.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.