Agri Business

WTO negotiations: Small fishers ask Centre not to support curbs on subsidies

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 05, 2020

Small fishers argue that such subsidies relate to livelihood and should be beyond WTO’s mandate   -  Bloomberg

Argue that such subsidies relate to livelihood and environmental concerns and should be beyond the mandate of WTO

Small fishers across the country have asked the Centre not to support the ongoing fisheries negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as they fear that it could lead to curbing of the much needed subsidies for the community and devastate livelihoods.

In a letter to Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, copied to the Chair of the WTO's Negotiating Group on Rules on Fisheries Subsidies Santiago Wills, the National Platform for Small Scale Fisherworkers, said that any disciplining of subsidies should be rejected by India as the special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries may not be able to provide adequate protection to small fishers.

“Fisheries subsidies, especially to the small scale fisheries, relate to livelihood and environmental concerns. As such these subsidies cannot and should not be determined or disciplined on considerations of international trade,” asserted the letter from NPSSF, which represents fish workers organisations, both maritime and inland, in 19 States of India.

The WTO is attempting to seal a deal on a pact to curb “harmful’’ fisheries subsidies, estimated at $14 billion-$20.5 billion annually, by the end of the year. The subsidies that are being targeted include sops for fishing vessels, nets, fuel and other inputs offered to poor fishers in India.

Seeking exemptions

While New Delhi has sought exemptions for developing countries with national incomes below a prescribed threshold, there is no clarity yet whether the required carve-outs will be provided.

“Subsidies for small scale fisheries have different purpose and significance than those for the large scale fisheries. Therefore, any subsidy to small fishers for operation in any waters should be left out of WTO’s subsidy disciplines,” the letter added.

Making a case against negotiating fisheries subsidies for small fishers at the WTO, the association pointed out that subsidies for small scale fishers directly relate to protection and promotion of sustainable fisheries, employment, food security, nutritional status and equitable distribution of income.

“Thus they are part of fisheries management. Management of fisheries...is beyond the mandate of WTO,” the letter stated.

In last month’s negotiations, India’s proposal of exempting developing countries with Gross National Income lower than $5,000 per annum from the proposed prohibition on subsidies found acceptance with a number of developing nations and LDCs.

Published on October 05, 2020

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