India rejects revised draft on WTO’s fishery subsidies; calls it weak and biased in favour of developed nations

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

India is suggesting that those countries which are engaged in distant water fishing 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 $ 7.2 billion per annum; $ 3.8 billion, $ 3.4 billion, $ 3.18 billion and $ 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.

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. 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.

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