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Xiangzhi fishing port in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian: “Poker between industrialized and developing countries”


Song Weiwei / dpa

In Abu Dhabi, the trade ministers of the 166 member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were unable to agree on common measures to better protect fish stocks.

The planned global agreement has therefore failed for the time being.

The fisheries agreement should have curbed any subsidies that lead to overfishing or overcapacity.

On the one hand, this is intended to protect fish stocks and, on the other hand, to prevent more and more boats from being built and used.

It would have complemented an agreement reached in 2022 that only addressed the worst forms of subsidies.

“Unfortunately, there was no happy ending in the poker between industrialized and developing countries,” said Anna Holl-Buhl, a fishing expert at the WWF Environmental Foundation.

"The result of the negotiations is de facto a license to continue the overexploitation of the seas."

In the hope of reaching an agreement, the conference, which was originally scheduled to last until Thursday, was extended several times, but ultimately in vain.

The difficulty is that the WTO's now 166 countries always decide unanimously.

So each country effectively has a veto.

The European Union is negotiating as a bloc for all 27 member states.

“In the long hours of negotiations, we saw difficult but also profitable cooperation,” said WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the end.

But it wasn't enough.

Negotiations will now continue at the organization's headquarters in Geneva.

Even before the conference began, it was clear that another issue close to the hearts of German business would not make progress: the restoration of the dispute settlement system.

It has been partially blocked for four years because the US is preventing the appointment of appeals judges.

They demand extensive WTO reforms, for which there is currently no majority.