India has said that it is not ready to agree to a commitment against subsidies for illegal, unregulated, unaccounted (IUU) fishing and overfished stocks at the WTO Ministerial meet in Buenos Aires later this month.

“New Delhi was earlier seeking a special and differential treatment to protect subsidies to small fishermen, but delaying an agreement would give it more time to negotiate adequate safeguards,” a government official told BusinessLine .

New Delhi’s firm stand on the matter is important as the livelihood of millions of artisanal farmers will be at risk if subsidy reduction commitments are undertaken without safeguards.

Countries including Malaysia, Cameroon, Oman, Paraguay and the Philippines, too, have spoken out against commitments to reduce subsidies at the Ministerial meet while others such as the EU and New Zealand want their inclusion.

“What most members agreed to feature in the draft is a commitment to sustain negotiations for comprehensive fishery subsidy disciplines after the Ministerial meet,” a Geneva-based trade officer said.

A resolution on fisheries subsidies is one of the deliverables WTO members are hoping for at the Buenos Aires meeting on December 10-14. Another agreement that many developing countries, including India, are expecting is a permanent solution to treating subsidies for public procurement programmes.

The Africa Group has expressed its willingness to go along with commitments on disciplining fisheries subsidies as long as developing and less developed countries are exempt.

China said it can support subsidy prohibitions but only for IUU fishing and not for overfished stocks.