India’s proposal on waiver pitted against options

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on November 08, 2020

WTO members are trying to reach a deal on prohibiting ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies – estimated at $14 - 20.5 billion annually – that result in over-fishing and depletion of fish stocks worldwide   -  -

ACP group wants exemptions only for countries with small share of global production

India is facing considerable challenge in garnering adequate support at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for its proposal to waive fisheries subsidy reduction commitments for countries with incomes below a defined threshold as several developing countries too, such as the 79-member ACP (African, Caribbean, Pacific) group, are coming up with alternative formulas.

Ambassador Didier Chambovey of Switzerland, who is helping the negotiating group chair in expediting the discussions on special & differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries, asked members to show flexibility as the end-2020 target for finalising the fisheries subsidy agreement was fast approaching, a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

“At the latest meeting of the negotiating group on rules at the WTO, the chair and the assistants tried their best to get a consensus on the proposals in the draft text on fisheries agreement circulated earlier. However, there are a lot of divergences in the area of S&DT which need to be narrowed soon,” the official said.

WTO members are trying to reach an agreement on prohibiting ‘harmful’ fisheries subsidies estimated at $14-20.5 billion annually that results in over-fishing and depletion of fish stocks worldwide.

The chair’s draft text contains India’s proposal on S&DT suggesting that developing countries with Gross National Income (GNI) per capita lower than $5,000 should be exempted from taking on reduction commitments. This would help them continue the subsidy programmes for their artisanal fishers. “Earlier, it was developed nations like the US and Australia that had opposed India’s proposal on the ground that it would lead to too many exemptions. Now many developing countries are coming up with their alternative formulas. This is creating more hurdles on the way of reaching a consensus,” the official said.

List-based approach

For instance, the ACP group, while supporting exemptions for developing countries, does not favour the GNI approach, the official said.

South Africa, which is part of the ACP, said that it wanted a list-based approach where the ‘positive’ or good subsidies would be exempted from the ban.

Since India is among the top fish producing countries in the world, behind just a few countries such as China (the largest producer) and Indonesia, the ACP proposal may not suit its interest. Moreover, the subsidies that India wants to protect, which includes incentives for modernisation and construction of boats and fuel subsidies, may not fall within the positive subsidies that South Africa has proposed should be exempt.

India’s proposal of exempting countries with GNI per capita less than $5,000, would not only ensure continuation of the country’s subsidy programmes since its GNI is much lower than the threshold limit, it would also exclude China, the largest fishery subsidy provider globally, as China’s GNI is higher than the proposed annual limit of $5,000.

Published on November 08, 2020

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