India to Refrain From Supporting Fish Subsidy Proposal at WTO
(Bloomberg) -- India considers the latest proposal of the World Trade Organization on subsidies for fishermen unbalanced and unfair, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The South Asian nation is unlikely to approve the proposal when it comes up for discussion at the ministerial meeting later this month as it favors developed nations, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions aren’t public. The elimination of subsidy for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing along with overfishing is on the agenda at the conference in Geneva starting Nov. 30.
India had in July insisted on more time for phasing out subsidies to cushion the impact on local industry and to protect the livelihoods of millions of poor fishermen. It had also suggested that nations engaged in fishing in areas beyond their exclusive economic zones should end subsidies for 25 years to control overfishing.
A spokesman for India’s trade ministry couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, while WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said it has no comment to offer.
The talks at the Geneva-based trade body missed an earlier deadline of 2020. It gathered pace at the behest of its new Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who sees fisheries negotiation as something of a bellwether for the future of the organization. A new sense of urgency to reach an agreement on the issue -- under discussion for almost two decades -- is also because the world’s fish populations are steadily falling below sustainable levels. India ranks among the top seven fish producing countries, which account for almost 50% of total captures.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s data shows that the world’s fish ecosystem is at risk of collapsing due to overexploitation. One key reason for the problem is the massive subsidies provided by governments each year -- amounting to an estimated $14-$54 billion globally per year and largely benefiting large-scale fishing operations, while discriminating against smaller ones.
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