To safeguard the rights of small and artisanal fishers to ensure that they continue to get subsidies for purchasing boats, nets and fuel, India has said that it will soon circulate at the World Trade Organisation a draft paper on granting special and differential treatment for members of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs).

“India also submitted that the proposed caps should be introduced only on non-specific fuel subsidies not tragetted towards a particular industry,” a Geneva-based trade official, aware of the developments at the meeting on fisheries subsidies, told BusinessLine .

Uncontrolled fishing

WTO members are working on an agreement to put a lid on fisheries subsidies, which lead to illegal, unregulated and uncontrolled fishing across the world; some countries want it finalised by the Ministerial Conference in June next year.

The discussions on curbing fisheries subsidies are being led by an informal group called ‘Friends of Fish’ (including Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Pakistan, Peru and the US), which argues that subsidies to the fisheries sector, estimated to range from $14 billion to $20.5 billion annually, have led to overcapacity and overfishing.

“Amid difficulty in agreeing on the type of subsidies that are most likely to lead to overfishing, members are exploring monetary caps as an alternative fix. The proposals by the US, Australia and the Philippines for caps have drawn mixed reactions, prompting the chair of the group to call on members to work towards a compromise,” the official said.

According to the proposal by the US, Australia and the Philippines, rather than classifying subsidies as positively or negatively affecting fish stocks, members should negotiate caps on their total fisheries subsidies with the top 25 players taking on commitments to reduce their subsidies over time.

India, however, in its proposal, said that caps should be introduced only on non-specific fuel subsidies (like the one given by the US, which is used by the entire water sports/activities sector). The US reiterated that half of the top producers are developing countries and some are even LDCs.