India opposes WTO draft text on fisheries

Amiti Sen | Updated on: Jun 14, 2022
B.LINE: Piyush Goyal,Textile Commerce and Industry addressing a press confrence, in New Delhi, on 13.4.22 Pic : Kamal Narang

B.LINE: Piyush Goyal,Textile Commerce and Industry addressing a press confrence, in New Delhi, on 13.4.22 Pic : Kamal Narang | Photo Credit: KAMAL NARANG

Goyal says it seeks to ‘institutionalise’ rich, poor disparities; warns developing countries to beware of such efforts

India has expressed its opposition to the current draft text on curbing fisheries subsidies under discussion at the ongoing WTO Ministerial Conference (M12) in Geneva, arguing that it allows indefinite over-exploitation of fisheries resources by several advanced fishing nations while placing under scrutiny livelihood subsidies extended by developing nations to small-scale and artisanal fishers.

“I see in every which way, the Uruguay Round asymmetries and discrimination in agriculture being sought to be institutionalised in fishing today. And I would urge all the developing countries to beware of such efforts,” Goyal said in his intervention on Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations on Tuesday.

‘Policy space essential’

The transition period of 25 years sought by India (for cutting down subsidies) is not intended as a permanent carve-out, and is a must-have for the country and for other similarly placed non-distant water fishing countries, he said. “We feel that without agreeing to the 25-year transition period, it will be impossible for us to finalise the negotiations, as policy space is essential for the long-term sustainable growth and prosperity of our low income fishermen,” the minister added.

Pointing out the vast difference in subsidies provided by India and advanced nations, Goyal said New Delhi barely gave $15 a year to fisher families in subsidies while there were many countries which which gave subsidies as high as $42,000, $65,000 and $75,000 to a single fisher family. “That is the extent of disparity that is sought to be institutionalised,” he said.

Several advanced fishing nations are indiscriminately exploiting fisheries resources in others’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and the high seas by being members of multiple Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs), the minister said.

‘Arbitrary, unfair situation’

“India has argued in the past that such nations shall own the responsibility for the damage they have caused to the global fisheries wealth and should bring them under a tougher discipline regime. Still, to our distress, the present text does not stop such over-exploitation; instead, it indiscreetly allows such practices indefinitely,” he said.

For instance, the draft text does not impose reduction commitments for non-specific fuel subsidies given by many developed nations. Also there are provisions under which countries could continue to extend fisheries subsidies. “... A de-minimis on the global catch basis without reference to the fishing, the fishermen families involved, the size of the nation, the size of the population being supported is a completely arbitrary and unfair situation,” Goyal said.

Published on June 14, 2022
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