India to seek fairer deal in fisheries at WTO's Ministerial Conference

Business Thursday 26/May/2022 08:31 AM
India to seek fairer deal in fisheries at WTO's Ministerial Conference

New Delhi: India, sources said, will seek certain "carve-outs" to ensure special and differential treatment for developing countries that are not quite engaged in distant water fishing in the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference to be held between June 12-15 at Geneva, sources said on Wednesday.

India also wants a 25-year exemption for these countries from overfishing subsidy prohibition so that they have some policy space to develop their vastly-underdeveloped distant water fishing segment. At the same time, it suggests big subsidisers abolish their dole-outs for fishing in areas beyond their exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles) within these 25 years, which will then set the stage for developing nations to follow suit.

Most developing countries' per capita fisheries subsidy is minuscule compared to advanced fishing nations. Countries like India, which are yet to establish large fishing capacities, cannot be expected to sacrifice their future policy space because some members provided considerable subsidies to overexploit fisheries resources and are able to continue to engage in unsustainable fishing.

According to sources, India needs special and differential treatment to protect the livelihoods of poor fishers and address food security concerns of a nation, have the necessary policy space for developing the fisheries sector, and sufficient time to put in place systems to implement the disciplines under overcapacity and overfishing, illegal, unreported unregulated and overfished.

Sources said that the fisheries agreement has to be seen in the context of existing international instruments and the laws of the sea. The sovereign rights of coastal states to explore and manage the living resources within their maritime jurisdiction, enshrined in international instruments, must be protected.

On India's commitment to conclude the negotiations, the source said that it is worth noting that the protection of the environment has been ingrained in the Indian ethos for ages and has been repeatedly emphasized in various international forums.

India is committed to concluding the negotiations so long as it provides space for equitable growth and freedom in developing fishing capacities for the future without locking members into disadvantageous arrangements in perpetuity.

India is actively participating in the focused discussions held at the WTO. The last week of discussions and negotiations took place, where India participated in a few small group discussions and bilateral meetings with the EU, China, Australia and Japan.

"We have strongly reiterated our position on non-specific fuel subsidies, a higher transition period of up to 25 years under special and differential treatment for developing countries, prohibition of subsidies for distant water fishing, protection for artisanal and small-scale fisheries and exemption up to the maritime limit 200NM. Starting from May 30, 2022 the negotiations would continue daily for a week to reach an outcome", as per sources.