India will not comply with its fisheries demands, says India’s WTO ambassador

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Geneva, Switzerland): While India’s key demand for long-term subsidy protection for its fishermen has gone unaddressed in the latest draft text of an agreement on cutting fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO). ), the Indian ambassador Brajendra Navnit assured that India would not comply with his demands.

Speaking ahead of the crucial 12th ministerial conference which starts in Geneva on Sunday, Navnit said that during the negotiations, India will ensure that support for its traditional fishermen is not stopped or impacted.

India is asking for a 25-year exemption from the proposed overfishing subsidy bans compared to the seven years mentioned in the draft text, as the sector in India is still at a nascent stage.

The fisheries subsidies proposal at the WTO aims to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing, reduce support for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and promote sustainable fishing.

“We will ensure that none of the subsidies to traditional fishermen are stopped or affected. India has committed to this, and we will not bend to this… You cannot expect countries like India are sacrificing their future policy space because some members have provided huge subsidies to overexploit fisheries resources and are able to continue to engage in unsustainable fishing,” Navnit said.

He added that India needed special and differential treatment to protect the livelihoods of poor fishers and address a nation’s food security concerns. “We must have the policy space to develop the fishing sector and enough time to put systems in place to enforce disciplines on overcapacity and overfishing, illegal, unreported, regulated and overexploited,” he said.

India believes that the fisheries agreement should be seen in the context of existing international instruments and the laws of the sea. The sovereign rights of coastal states to explore and manage living resources within their maritime jurisdiction, enshrined in international instruments, must be protected.

According to the latest draft text, developing countries will have to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing within seven years of the agreement entering into force, or until 2030. These subsidies include those granted for construction, the acquisition, modernization or upgrading of vessels. , in addition to those intended for the purchase of machinery and equipment for ships, including fishing gear and engines, refrigerators, as well as insurance and social charges.

India calls for a transition period of 25 years as the sector still needs support for the livelihoods of various low-income fishers who depend on it.

“We should get a longer transition period so that we can strengthen the future of our fishermen. India is not the country responsible for this problem. We fish sustainably. We will protect our traditional fishermen,” Navnit said. He added that India will only accept the proposed deal if it is balanced and does not put developing countries at a disadvantage.

In the meantime, the draft text aims to protect non-specific fuel subsidies, mainly provided by developed countries.

The proposed deal also aims to remove subsidies contributing to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfished stocks, giving developing countries two years of leeway for their low-income, resource-poor fishers until to a zone of 12 nautical miles. India has been pushing for at least seven years for this transition and exemption for a zone of up to 200 nautical miles.

According to the National Forum of Fishworkers, a union representing thousands of fishers, argued that the negotiations ignore that many developing countries like India have large populations of fishers and provide very small subsidies per fisherman. . He pointed out that India has about 97.9 million fishers representing 26% of the world fisher population. India provides only $141 million in total subsidies to the sector, which means the subsidy is only $14.50 per fisherman.

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