India has insisted that larger developing countries should also be extended flexibilities at the fisheries negotiations of the World Trade Organisation that would allow them to retain some subsidy programmes important for small-scale fishers.

“At a recent meeting on fisheries subsidies, India said it was getting a sense that the rhetoric that larger developing countries should give more commitments was having a bearing on the fisheries subsidies negotiation and should be avoided,” according to a government official.

Some developed countries have been insisting at the WTO that larger developing countries like India and China should not continue to get special & differential treatment but India and many others have said it would go against the body’s original mandate.

At the fisheries meeting, India said members should “be true to the mandate” and ensure that special and differential treatment be built into the fisheries subsidies agreement.

Overcapacity, overfishing

WTO members are working on disciplines that prohibit subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

At the WTO’s Ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December 2017, members agreed to try and adopt the agreement on fisheries subsidies at the next meeting in 2020.

“While India supports curbing subsidies that lead to over-fishing and depletion of marine resources, it has to continue to provide subsidies for boats, gear and fuel essential for its small-scale fishers,” a government official said. It, therefore, needs carve-outs in the form of special & differential treatment for developing countries.

The European Union, said while it supported the principle of special and differential treatment it would be better to tailor exemptions and flexibilities to a country’s fishing capacity.

Argentina responded to this, saying it was more appropriate to consider the size of country’s subsidy programme rather than its fish output.