Economy

India supports early conclusion of fisheries pact at WTO with necessary exemptions

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 21, 2020 Published on July 21, 2020

At General Council meeting, New Delhi insists on disciplines for large-scale fishing, carve-outs for small fishers

India has supported an early conclusion of the negotiations at the World Trade Organization to curb fisheries subsidies, but has insisted that disciplines be focussed on distant-water and large-scale industrial fishing and exemptions be provided and carved out for the needs of small and subsistence fishermen who operate in territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

At the WTO General Council Heads of Delegation meeting on Monday, India also sought greater contribution from those who provide large subsidies, both in value and on per-capita basis, according to the representation made by Brajendra Navnit, India’s Permanent Representative to the WTO.

On the issue of extension of moratorium on electronic transmission duties, which is generally renewed every two years at the WTO’s Ministerial meeting, India said the work programme on e-commerce adopted in 1998 needed to be updated before a decision is taken so that there is clarity on its potential impact on the sustainability of domestic industry, job creation and revenue generation.

Level playing field

In the area of agriculture, where some members are pushing for additional commitments in reducing domestic subsidies, India insisted that first a level playing field has to be created by removing asymmetries in Aggregate Measurement of Support entitlements that favour many developed nations.

India accepted the draft consolidated text in fisheries floated by the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules last month as a basis for negotiations. WTO members are trying to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year in an attempt to check harmful subsidies estimated at $14-20.5 billion annually.

Since India has distanced itself from China by proposing that countries with a per-capital Gross National Income (GNI) of over $5,000 for three consecutive years may not be exempted from reduction commitments (Beijing falls outside the suggested threshold level), it is hopeful that its proposals will get incorporated.

“We need to be mindful that concluding this negotiation would be difficult without Special & Differential Treatment (S&DT) for developing countries who need it and for LDCs (least developed countries) as agreed to by our leaders in Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 and by our Ministers at MC11 (WTO Ministerial meeting in Argentina in December 2017). This is a very sensitive issue involving livelihood of millions of marginal fishermen,” said the representation.

Referring to the Appellate Body of the WTO rendered dysfunctional since December 2019 due to the refusal by the US to appoint new judges, the representation pointed out that India was a major user of the WTO’s dispute settlement system, and the resolution of the crisis deserved the utmost priority and should precede all other reforms.

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Published on July 21, 2020
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