Agri Business

India committed to conclude WTO fisheries pact

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 15, 2021

Provided effective special treatment for developing countries is on offer, points out Goyal

India is committed to concluding the WTO negotiations on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies as long as it offers an effective special & differential treatment for developing countries without any imbalances, provides for balancing current and future fishing needs, and preserves space for equitable growth in fishing capacities in future, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said.

“Special & differential treatment (S&DT) has to be for a (developing) country as a whole. We need S&DT to not only protect the livelihoods of poor fishermen but also to address food security concerns of a nation, have the necessary policy space for developing the fisheries sector and for the time required to put in place systems to implement the disciplines,” the Minister said at the crucial WTO Ministerial meet on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies on Thursday.

The Ministerial meeting, taking place virtually, is aimed at narrowing gaps in the ongoing negotiations for elimination of harmful subsidies, estimated at $14 billion-20.5 billion annually, leading to overcapacity and overfishing. The idea is to prepare grounds for an agreement to be reached before the full-scale WTO Ministerial meet scheduled in November 2021 in Geneva.

“Any agreement must recognise that different countries are at different stages of development and current fishing arrangements reflect their current economic capacities. Needs will change with time as countries develop. Any agreement will have to provide for balancing current and future needs,” the Minister said

While all members agree that S&DT needs to be a part of the final agreement, they disagree on the scope of the provision and the balance between the flexibility to be offered to developing countries and an ambitious outcome, pointed out WTO Spokesperson Keith Rockwell at a press briefing on Thursday.

The per capita fisheries subsidy given by most developing countries is minuscule compared to advanced fishing nations, Goyal pointed out in his intervention. Countries like India who are yet to develop fishing capabilities,cannot be expected to sacrifice their future ambitions, while protecting those members providing huge subsidies and over exploiting fisheries resources and continue to engage in unsustainable fishing. Therefore, it is imperative to preserve space for growth in fishing capacity of the developing world for the future without locking them into disadvantageous arrangements in perpetuity, he said.

The Minister criticised the sustainability based approach in the ‘Overcapacity and Overfishing’ pillar in the revised draft agreement circulated by the chair of the negotiation committee and said the current form will create significant inequity for developing countries. “Clearly, it will lead to capacity constraints for developing countries, while advanced nations will continue to grant subsidies. This is unequal, unfair, unjust!” he said.

Goyal also called for inclusion of non-specific fuel subsidies in the list of items to be brought under disciplines as its exclusion would allow continuation of large harmful subsidies and create a major disparity.

All Trade Ministers attending the meeting were given three minutes each to make their observations following which Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations chair Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia summarised on his own responsibility the points made by the Ministers.

The points made by the Ministers will decide how the talks should proceed over the coming months.

Published on July 15, 2021

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