Revised draft on WTO’s fisheries subsidies still ‘unbalanced’: Sources

New Delh: Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will begin from Tuesday a clause-by-clause discussion on the revised draft negotiating text on fisheries subsidies while India has indicated that the text still remains “unbalanced”, sources said.
On Monday, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, introduced to Heads of Delegations a revised draft negotiating text on fisheries subsidies.
Wills, who also chairs the fishing subsidy negotiations, told reporters that the objective of this final phase is to collectively evolve the draft text ideally into a completely clean text or at least as clean as possible, with only one or two issues left for ministers to decide during the forthcoming 12th ministerial conference. The conference is set to start from November 30 in Geneva.
The revised text is still “unbalanced”. It has not taken into account the real sustainability issues, the sources said.
India has time and again emphasised that it is keen to finalise an agreement on fisheries subsidies in the WTO as irrational benefits and overfishing by many countries are hurting domestic fishermen and their livelihood.
In the WTO, member countries negotiate through a text to finalise an agreement.
Recently, India submitted a proposal on the agreement on fisheries subsidies. The proposal is much more stringent on those countries that have created the problem of overfishing and over-capacity.
India is suggesting that those countries which are engaged in distant water fishing and beyond their natural geographic area should stop giving subsidies for 25 years in fishing areas beyond their exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles).
The objective of these ongoing negotiations is to discipline subsidies with the overall objective to have sustainable fishing and to eliminate IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing subsidies and prohibit them from contributing to overcapacity and overfishing.
Unlike rich nations which provide billions of dollars of subsidies to their fishermen, India’s subsidy amounts to only around Rs 770 crore. The government provides subsidies on things like fuel and boats.
The sector provides livelihood to about 16 million Indian fishermen and fish farmers at the primary level and about twice the number along the value chain.
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. It was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan but was postponed 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. —PTI

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