India seeks fair WTO pact on fish subsidies, says limited S&DT inappropriate, unaffordable, unacceptable
Speaking strongly for the rights of developing countries at the ministerial meeting of the WTO on the crucial fisheries subsidy negotiations, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said that countries like India who are yet to develop fishing capacities, cannot sacrifice their future ambitions.
“Allowing advanced nations to continue grant of subsidies is unequal, unfair and unjust,” Goyal said, adding that India will submit proposals very soon to address its concerns including incorporating ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’.
Flexibilities under the S&DT principle include longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase trading opportunities, provisions to protect their trade interests, and support to build capacity to handle disputes and implement technical standards.
While responding to the specific question posed by the DG to the ministers, he said that limiting S&DT to poor and artisanal fishermen only is “neither appropriate nor affordable, and is not acceptable”.
“S&DT is required to not only protect livelihoods of poor fishermen but also to address food security concerns, have necessary policy space for developing the fisheries sector and the need for a larger time period for any transition,” Goyal said.
WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the chair of the negotiating group on rules Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia had posed a question to the members on limiting S&DT to the very poor and vulnerable artisanal fishers earlier this month as many members are keen to conclude the negotiations by November to finalise disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.
Cautioning against repeating the mistakes made during the Uruguay Round three decades ago that allowed unequal and trade-distorting entitlements for select developed countries particularly in agriculture, the minister said: “These unfairly constrained less developed members who did not have the capacity and resources to support their industry or farmers then”.
Goyal highlighted that not bringing non-specific fuel subsidies under the disciplines would introduce disparity and giving special treatment to non-recovery of subsidies under Government-to-Government fisheries ‘access agreements’ would be akin to cherry-picking.
He said any new agreement has to be seen in the context of existing international instruments and the laws of the sea, and the sovereign rights of coastal states to explore, exploit and manage living resources within their maritime jurisdiction, must be preserved.
“The determination by coastal states should be given primacy and not be subject to WTO dispute settlement mechanism,” Goyal said.
The minister said that India is committed and keen to conclude the negotiations, as long as it provides for balancing current and future fishing needs, preserving space for equitable growth in fishing capacities in future, and an effective S&DT without any imbalances.
“The agreement has to provide for current and future needs…the per capita fisheries subsidy given by most developing countries is minuscule compared to advanced fishing nations,” Goyal was quoted in an official statement.
Expressing concern that any unbalanced or unequal agreement now would bind the country into “disadvantageous arrangements in perpetuity”, which may not meet future requirements, he emphasised that it is essential that big subsidizers take greater responsibility to reduce their subsidies and fishing capacities, in accordance with the principles of ‘Polluter Pays’ and ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’.