Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday rejected a text for negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on curbing harmful fishery subsidies, stressing that it seeks to “institutionalise” the disparities between the rich and the poor, and warned developing countries to “beware of such efforts”.
India wants that big “polluters” that have long been exploiting the world’s fishery stocks through distant water fishing take on greater responsibility and stop offering fisheries subsidies for 25 years. However, the negotiating text doesn’t endorse this view. Similarly, the text talks about granting only seven years for developing countries to end their subsidies, against 25 years demanded by India for those who are not engaged in distant water fishing. Unless its demands are met, at least to a reasonable extent, the strong stance taken by India may further delay an outcome on the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
New Delhi also wants advanced fishing countries that are “indiscriminately exploiting the fisheries resources” in others’ exclusive economic zones by being members of multiple regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), must be subjected to tougher regulations but the present text does not stop such over-exploitation; instead, it “indiscreetly allows such practices indefinitely”.
Highlighting that advanced nations with a fisherman population of few thousands shouldn’t be allowed to dictate terms to a country like India, which is home to nine million families of fishermen, Goyal said New Delhi, and other developing nations, that are not much into distant water fishing, need the necessary policy space to make progress in this critical sector.
India, Goyal stressed, gives barely $15 a year in subsidy to its fishermen families but “there are countries which give as high as $42,000, $65,000 and $75,000 to one fishermen family”. “That is the extent of disparity that is sought to be institutionalized, through the current fisheries text,” he added. Goyal also wondered how a country that supports hundreds of millions of poor fishermen be made to accept the same de-minimis level as those advanced fishing nations that have only a few thousand fishermen.
Goyal also exhorted poor and developing countries to be careful while endorsing any such text. “And I would urge all the developing countries to beware of such efforts (and) to be cautious while we mortgage away our future and the future potential of our poor people to grow, to become more prosperous in the future and to get a chance, a better chance in life,” he said.
India is a strong advocate of sustainability, Goyal said, and its glorious history speaks volumes of its traditions and good practices in managing its natural resources. “At the same time, I urge you to take cognizance of the fact that many nations from both hemispheres allowed their gigantic industrial fleets to exploit and plunder the ocean’s wealth over the past several decades, leading to highly unsustainable fishing. In contrast, India maintained fleets of modest size that largely fished in its Exclusive Economic Zone, operating with passive gear and leaving bare minimum footprints on the seascape,” the minister said.