The darkest days of 2020 are soon behind us. Winter solstice is just a few days away. Coming from a country where the amount of daylight at this time of the year is quite limited, the moment when “the sun turns around”, as Norwegians say, is a moment of relief and filled with hope that brighter days are awaiting us.
We would like to thank the negotiating chairs, as well as the coordinators and co-conveners of the various joint statement initiatives for their status reports. While there is no lack of challenges identified, the reports also provide proof of the positive energy present in the Membership.
The vast majority of Members are constructively engaged in ensuring that this organization delivers and improves. The amount of energy displayed in the various multilateral and plurilateral processes do not only light up the current darkness, but also provides an excellent basis for moving forward.
A package of recommendations related to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises has been completed. An informal working group on trade and gender and structured discussions on trade and environmental sustainability have been established.
We have seen substantial progress in the Joint Statement Initiatives on e-commerce, investment facilitation for development and domestic regulation in relation to trade in services. We hope to see concrete results from this work next year, with e-commerce of particular importance in updating our rules to the digital age.
We should also acknowledge the significant progress made in the most important multilateral process going on – fisheries subsidies. Let me thank Ambassador Wills for his report and tireless efforts, as well as the efforts of the friend of the chair, Ambassador Chambovey.
We agree with the Chair’s assessment of the state of play, and we share the disappointment that we have not been able to deliver an agreement by the deadline in SDG 14.6. But, we have not given up.
We have overcome many of the obstacles to negotiations that the pandemic has put in our way. The chair presented a revised draft text this fall which continues to be the basis for negotiations. There have been frank discussions on key issues, such as overcapacity and overfishing and IUU, but also on special and differential treatment, dispute settlement and territoriality, and Heads of Delegations have become engaged.
We welcome the intention of ambassador Wills to issue a second revision of the consolidated text by the end of this week, and see this as an important means to keep the negotiating train moving forward.
In this context let us not forget who has the main responsibility for the situation we are in. The responsibility rest with us, the members. A viable solution can only be found if Members move away from fundamental positions and accept the need to find compromises.
A fundamental challenge remains on how to balance the insistence of many Members, both developed and developing, to retain national policy space on the one hand, with sustainability and fairness on the other hand. We need to remind ourselves that the core purpose of these negotiations is to restrict policy space. Introducing prohibitions, as we are mandated, will necessarily have to restrict our policy space – for the benefit of the sustainability of our common marine resources. This is urgently needed for the benefit of all, including those who rely on fisheries for employment and income.
So where do we go from here? The most important thing is to keep up the momentum and continue negotiations in full force, and we support the ambitions of ambassador Wills in this regard. The fact that we have not been able to meet the deadline set by our Heads of Government should inspire us to step up our efforts to the maximum in order to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible. This is what we have been instructed to do.