India suggests that those countries 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.
India has outright rejected the revised draft negotiating text on WTO’s proposed fishery subsidies agreement, saying it was unbalanced, weak and favoured developed nations, as per the sources. They, however, said that India completely supports the proposed pact for disciplining fishery subsidies. Still, it has to be balanced and gives a policy space for developing nations and poor anglers.
India has made its voice loud and clear before the pivotal ministerial meeting of the WTO. “India is looking to restrict subsidies of advanced fishing countries, which have led to the depletion of fishery resources. India does support the sustainable development of fishery resources.
Yet, the way the current negotiation has happened has moved away from sustainability, and the focus seems to be to maintain a standstill,” a commerce ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
“We find that the current format has been created in a way that there will be no change for the big fishing countries. We observe the current text is not balanced; it is weak.
It is totally in favour of advanced fishing countries,” said a source in the know of details, emphasizing that India favours stopping unreported, illegal, unregulated (IUU) fishing and in favour of the sustainable fishery by checking harmful subsidies.
According to sources, ongoing negotiations have moved away from sustainability, and its goals have been taken backstage. Along with other developing countries, India is trying to point out the inequities and unfair nature of the text and secure its interests.
“We need to have policy space to develop the fishery sector in the years to come,” the source said. The draft text made India’s proposals to curb sops for distant water fishing and extending carveouts to developing countries negotiable. Still, it included the issue of forced labour in fishing activities, as proposed by the US.
India is not one of the major fishery subsidy providers. The US, the EU and China offer an annual fishery subsidy of $3.4 billion, $3.8 billion and $7.3 billion, respectively; India only provided $277 million in 2018 to small fishers.
From India’s coastline for up to 12 nautical miles, territorial water, no discipline should apply on subsidies as most are small fishermen and may not put intricate systems in place. Between 12-200 nautical miles, called exclusive economic zones, our view is that low-income anglers must have a carveout and a transition period of 25 years.
On the other hand, the WTO’s revised text is proposing only a two-year carve out till 12 nautical miles and nothing more beyond that for the developing nations,” he added. It is clear that distant water fishing is not defensible without subsidies, the official said.
“However, the text, unfortunately, is in favour of remote water fishing nations once again. Subsidies should be stopped for at least 25 years so that the developing countries optimally utilize the space left out. If they stop such subsidies, then 2/3 of the problem will be resolved.
Also, 25 years should be available to countries such as India that will be in a position to continue to subsidize sustainably without demonstrating obligations,” he said.
MC12 will be going to take place from November 30 to December 31 in Geneva, Switzerland. Initially scheduled for June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan, it had to be delayed 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.