Revised draft on WTO’s fishery subsidies weak, favours developed nations

By: |
November 11, 2021 6:50 PM

India is suggesting that those countries which are engaged in distant water fishing and beyond their natural geographic area should stop giving subsidies for 25 years in fishing areas beyond their exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles).

India has also maintained that countries that have provided huge subsidies for unsustainable fishing should first take the responsibility of significantly cutting down those harmful support measures which are leading to overfishing.India has also maintained that countries that have provided huge subsidies for unsustainable fishing should first take the responsibility of significantly cutting down those harmful support measures which are leading to overfishing.

India has rejected a revised draft negotiating text on WTO’s proposed fishery subsidies agreement saying it was weak, unbalanced and favours developed nations, sources said on Thursday.

They, however, said that India completely supports the proposed pact for disciplining fishery subsidies, but it has to be balanced and gives a policy space for future to developing nations and where fishermen are poor.

On November 8, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, introduced a revised draft negotiating text on fisheries subsidies.
The negotiations, which are going on in Geneva, are aimed at prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity and eliminate those subsidies that create IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing.

“We find that the current text has been drafted in a manner that there will be a status quo for large fishing nations. We see that the current text is weak, it is not a balanced text. It is totally in favour of the advanced fishing countries,” one of the sources said.

In the WTO (World Trade Organisation), member countries negotiate through a text to finalise an agreement.

Sources said that the way the current negotiations have happened has moved away from sustainability and its goals have taken a back stage.
“India and other developing countries are trying to point out the inequalities and the unfair nature of the text and we are trying to secure our own interest in these negotiations,” they said, adding India is trying to be in touch with other like minded countries including developing countries who would share similar concerns and stand.

India is suggesting that those countries which are engaged in distant water fishing and beyond their natural geographic area should stop giving subsidies for 25 years in fishing areas beyond their exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles).

Unlike rich nations which provide billions of dollars of subsidies to their fishermen, India’s subsidy amounts to only around Rs 1,000 crore. China, EU, the US, Korea and Japan provide USD 7.2 billion per annum; USD 3.8 billion, USD 3.4 billion, USD 3.18 billion and USD 2.8 billion subsidies per annum respectively.
India mainly provides subsidies on fuel and boats and others.

The major points that India is insisting through its proposals include need to have policy space to develop fishery sector in the years to come; sought carve outs upto EEZ (exclusive economic zones – 200 nautical miles); 25 years of transition period and special and differential treatment as integral part of this pact.
India has also maintained that countries that have provided huge subsidies for unsustainable fishing should first take the responsibility of significantly cutting down those harmful support measures which are leading to overfishing.

There are primarily three areas of fishing — territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the sea shore), EEZ (exclusive economic zones – 200 nautical miles), and high seas. There are certain developed countries which go into high seas for exploiting the fishing stock.

The sector provides livelihood to about 16 million Indian fishermen and fish farmers at the primary level and about twice the number along the value chain.
WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies were launched in 2001 at Doha, with a mandate to clarify and improve existing WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies.
The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) will take place from November 30 to December 31 in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. MC is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and the last meeting was held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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