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    WTO MC12: Draft on fisheries subsidies does not meet India


    The draft specifies a transition period of seven years for developing nations, instead of 25 years, for exempting some developing countries from subsidy cuts

    World Trade Organization | India trade | fisheries sector

    Shreya Nandi  |  New Delhi 

    The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 12th ministerial conference (MC) is set to kick-start today, looking to reach a consensus on a variety of issues like food security, regulating fisheries subsidies, as well as intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.

    The MC generally takes place once every two years, but trade ministers are meeting after four years this time because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    A committee for negotiations on fisheries subsidies on Friday finalised the draft to be taken up by the ministerial which is not in line with India’s demand to put an end to non-specific fuel subsidies.

    The draft specifies a transition period of seven years for developing nations, instead of 25 years as proposed by India, for exempting some developing countries from subsidy cuts. The transition period was being negotiated by member nations in the past few weeks.

    “India’s priority is safeguarding the long-term interests of farmers and fishermen. We will continue to be the voice of developing and less-developed countries and work for fair outcomes,” an official statement released by the government said.

    According to reports, India’s permanent representative to WTO, Brajendra Navnit, on Sunday said India would protect the rights of its fishermen, not stop the subsidies they are getting, and not relent on this at the MC12.

    The global trade body is looking to build a consensus on an agreement aiming to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and promote sustainable fishing.

    India is keen to finalise the fisheries agreement at the ministerial because irrational subsidies and overfishing by many countries are hurting Indian fishermen and their livelihood.

    India strongly believes it should not repeat the mistakes made during the Uruguay Round, which allowed a few members unequal and trade-distorting entitlements in agriculture. It unfairly constrained less-developed members who did not have the capacity and resources to support their industry and farmers.

    Any imbalance in the agreement would bind India to current fishing arrangements, which may not meet everyone’s future requirements.

    India’s stance is that for sustainability big subsidisers must take greater responsibility to reduce their subsidies and fishing capacities.

    “Any agreement must recognise that different countries are at various stages of development and that current fishing arrangements reflect their current economic capacities. Needs will change with time as countries develop. Any agreement will have to provide for balancing current and future requirements to exploit fisheries in marine waters and the high seas,” the statement said.

    India has sought “special and differential treatment” to protect the livelihoods of poor fishermen and address the nation’s food security concerns, besides having the necessary policy space to develop the fisheries sector and sufficient time to put in place systems to implement disciplines for over- and under-fishing. India believes that the fisheries agreement has to be seen in the context of existing international instruments and the laws of the sea.

    Some of the other important issues from India’s perspective that will be addressed include the WTO’s response to the pandemic which will include the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) issue, agriculture issues, including public stockholding for food security, WTO reforms, and e-commerce.

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