Economy

Fishers bodies call for halt to WTO talks amid pandemic

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on April 02, 2020 Published on April 02, 2020

Complain that in the absence of face-to-face negotiations, texts are being tabled at the Chair’s discretion

Fisher and farmer organisations from India and other developing countries have called for an immediate halt to the fisheries subsidies negotiations at the World Trade Organisation, which they say are continuing in a “non-inclusive and ad-hoc manner” amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Since many developing countries could not participate in the ongoing discussions because of domestic disruptions, a very defective process —giving undue influence to the Chair — is being followed, tabling very ‘biased texts’, the groups pointed out in a representation to WTO DG Roberto Azevedo on Wednesday.

“Since Geneva is under a lockdown, face-to-face negotiations are on hold. Meanwhile, the Chair, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, is tabling texts at his own discretion, and the lack of adequate consultations is introducing undue bias in the text written by the Chair with the support of the WTO Secretariat, which remains under the heavy influence of some advanced countries,” the representation stated.

The letter has been endorsed by more than 150 groups from countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Uruguay, Nepal, Samoa and Fiji.

‘Harmful’ subsidies

WTO members had sought to wrap up fisheries negotiations aimed at curbing the ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies, estimated at $14-20.5 billion annually, at the ministerial meeting in Kazakhstan in June 2020. Although now the meet is unlikely to be held as scheduled because of the pandemic, attempts are still being made to conclude the talks.

The fisher and farmer bodies pointed out that the draft text tabled by the Chair on March 9, on overfishing and overcapacity, placed the Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), a key demand from India and a number of other developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs), under a placeholder.

Following strong objections from several developing countries, the Chair organised a virtual conference on March 20, which had to be cancelled as several developing countries were not able to participate, the representation added.

The Chair then called for written submissions through e-mails, which, too, was difficult for many countries. However, based on these, a new text is to be drafted.

“Negotiations of multilateral negotiations on an important issue such as fisheries subsidies, which is a critical livelihood issue for millions, especially in developing countries, cannot be conducted in this manner,” the representation stated, adding that the right thing to do amid the pandemic is to put the talks on hold.

Published on April 02, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.