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    WTO Ministerial: Can


    India wants to protect subsidies of several million low-income, poor traditional fishermen as it is a matter of livelihood for them

    Piyush Goyal | World Trade Organization | WTO

    Shreya Nandi  |  New Delhi 

    At the third day of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 12th ministerial conference in Geneva, India vehemently opposed a proposed global deal to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies as the plan did not provide a level-playing field to the developing nations.

    India wants to protect subsidies of several million low-income, poor traditional fishermen as it is a matter of livelihood for them.

    Calling the text ‘imbalanced’, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said unlike other advanced fishing nations, India doesn’t operate huge fishing fleets to exploit the resources indiscriminately.

    Besides, subsidies provided to fishers in India are one of the lowest — to the tune of $15/year for every fisher family in a year, in contrast to rich countries that pay as much as $42,000, $65,000, and $75,000 to one fisherman family. India is also not engaged in distant water-fishing–practice where fleets operate outside the country’s own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

    India wants advanced fishing nations to take larger responsibility for the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources.

    “Several advanced fishing nations are indiscriminately exploiting the fisheries resources in others’ EEZ and the high seas by being members of multiple RFMOs (regional fisheries management organisations). India has argued in the past that such nations shall own the responsibility for the damage they have caused to the global fisheries wealth and should bring them under a tougher discipline regime. Still, to our distress, the present text does not stop such over-exploitation; instead, it indiscreetly allows such practices indefinitely,” Goyal said at MC12.

    “Incidentally, I see a lot of countries very concerned about their fishermen. But what is the number of fishermen? One may have 1,500 fishermen, another may have 11,000…The concern of the small number of fishermen prevails over the livelihood of nine million fishermen in India. This is completely unacceptable! And that is the reason, India is opposed to the current text, also opposed to the way de minimis is sought to be institutionalised,” Goyal said.

    WTO has been wanting to build a consensus on the agreement on a 21-year-old issue that aims to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and promote sustainable fishing. The deal needs the consensus of 164 WTO member nations.

    India has maintained that it will agree to the proposed deal on fisheries, provided it is equitable and does not put member countries into a disadvantageous position in perpetuity.

    While a committee on negotiations on fisheries subsidies on Friday finalised the draft that is being at the ministerial level, however, it is not in line with India’s demand to put an end to non-specific fuel subsidies. The draft text of the fisheries subsidies specified seven years of transition period for developing nations, instead of 25 years for exempting some developing countries from subsidy cuts as proposed by India. The transition period was being negotiated by member nations over the last few weeks.

    India is also in favour of a “polluter pays” principle that countries indulging in overfishing should stop their subsidies.

    Goyal said subsidies like income and livelihood support during the seasonal no fishing for regeneration of fish stock, and provision of social security nets to the socially disadvantaged fishing communities, as practised in India cannot contribute to overfishing.

    India has been strongly reiterating its position on non-specific fuel subsidies, prohibition of subsidies for distant water fishing, protection for artisanal and small-scale fisheries and exemption up to the maritime limit 200 nautical miles.

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