India has made a strong case at the World Trade Organization for continuing its fisheries subsidies by arguing that its subsidies per fisherman amounted to less than $0.10 per day and it is the large subsidisers who needed to be disciplined.

“We need to be mindful that any solution which rewards members, who are major subsidisers and are largely responsible for the current state of affairs, will be unacceptable. Any approach for disciplining harmful subsidies should measure up on this criterion and take into account the development status of members,” according to India's statement at the meeting on fisheries subsidies negotiations at the heads of delegation level in Geneva this week.

WTO members are trying to reach an agreement by the end of the year on pruning and regulating harmful fisheries subsidies, estimated at $14-20 billion annually, which result in over-fishing and depletion of marine resources. The idea is to adopt such an agreement by the next WTO Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan in June 2020.

India is unhappy with attempts made by some rich countries, including the US, to delink special & differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries, a provision which is embedded in WTO rules, from the negotiations. “Any abridgement of the mandate to provide S&DT to developing countries including LDCs will make outcomes in this important area of negotiations very difficult,” it warned.

The US, in an earlier submission, had noted that 14 of the top 25 marine catch producers in the world were developing countries and one least-developed country. It said members should thus think carefully about providing carve-outs exempting developing countries from provisions to discipline how much subsidies they provide their fisheries sectors.

In its statement at the fisheries meeting on Wednesday, India said with miniscule subsidies of less than $0.10 per fishermen per day, it was not part of the problem, which was the creation of the large subsidisers who give huge subsidies and operate industrial fishing fleets.

There are basically six countries which include China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Spain, which account for 80 per cent of fishing outside territorial waters, and, according to India and many other like-minded countries, need to be disciplined.