WTO Ministerial Meet: Fishery subsidy talks may flounder on deep divide

By: |
November 08, 2021 4:15 AM

India’s annual fishery subsidy is only about Rs 770 crore, granted mostly on things like fuel and boats, according to an official source.

India believes that big subsidisers (advanced fishing nations) must take greater responsibility in scrapping their dole-outs and reducing fishing capacities, in sync with the principles of “polluter pays” and “common but differentiated responsibilities”.India believes that big subsidisers (advanced fishing nations) must take greater responsibility in scrapping their dole-outs and reducing fishing capacities, in sync with the principles of “polluter pays” and “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Negotiations for an agreement on abolishing fishery subsidy may stretch beyond the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting, starting November 30, unless both developed and developing countries change their hardened positions.

India and many others will oppose any move to end subsidies for fishermen in developing countries immediately or within a very short time-frame, as is being sought by developed nations. New Delhi favours a 25-year exemption from over-fishing subsidy prohibition for developing countries that are not engaged in distant-water fishing. At the same time, it suggests big subsidisers abolish their dole-outs within these 25 years, which will then set the stage for developing nations to follow suit.

India believes that big subsidisers (advanced fishing nations) must take greater responsibility in scrapping their dole-outs and reducing fishing capacities, in sync with the principles of “polluter pays” and “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Massive subsidies, estimated to be in the range of $14 billion to $54 billion per annum globally and extended mostly by large fishing nations, have contributed to over-exploitation of the world’s fish stocks.

India’s annual fishery subsidy is only about Rs 770 crore, granted mostly on things like fuel and boats, according to an official source.

India wants the special and differential treatment for most developing nations on the ground that it is required to not only protect livelihoods of poor fishermen but also address the broader food security concerns. Such treatment will also offer necessary policy space to develop the fisheries sector in these countries.

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal had in July stressed at a WTO meeting that India was very keen to finalise a fishery agreement, as lavish and irrational subsidies and overfishing by many countries were hurting the interest of its fishermen and their livelihood. But it would like a “balanced” agreement that addresses concerns of developing and least-developed countries.

While developed economies, including the US and the EU, have advocated that all countries do away with fishing subsidies linked to overcapacity and overfishing, many developing nations have sought to be exempted from such restrictions to protect their small fishermen.

WTO members have been negotiating hard in recent months with the hope that an agreement on fisheries subsidies can be reached in the next ministerial meeting in Geneva.

The current negotiations are aimed at finding out ways to preserve global fish stocks, including eliminating subsidies for IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing and prohibiting the dole-outs that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. The steady fall in the world’s fish populations below sustainable levels has added urgency to the negotiations that have been going on for about two decades now.

In an earlier proposal, India had suggested that the prohibition of subsidies in respect of overfishing and overcapacity be applied to developing countries if they meet four criteria. Their per capita gross national income must be above $5,000 (based on constant 2010 price of the dollar) for three consecutive years; their individual share exceeds 2% of the annual global marine capture fish production; they engage in distant water fishing; the contribution of agriculture, forestry and fishing in their national GDP is less than 10% for three consecutive years. However, the proposal drew opposition from many members, especially on the per capita income criterion.

The fishing sector in India is estimated to provide direct jobs to about 16 million fishermen and farmers and indirect employment to around 32 million.

Do you know What is India expected to grow 10 pc during current fiscal: NCAER Director General Poonam Gupt,FinMin releases Rs 9,871 cr grant to 17 state, Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Finance Bill, Fiscal Policy in India? FE Knowledge Desk explains each of these and more in detail at Financial Express Explained. Also get Live BSE/NSE Stock Prices, latest NAV of Mutual Funds, Best equity funds, Top Gainers, Top Losers on Financial Express. Don’t forget to try our free Income Tax Calculator tool.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Urban employment slips by 0.9 million in November
2US trade deficit narrows in October as exports rebound
3Stepping up ethanol production may help reduce crude oil import, says PM Modi