WTO members to hold talks on fishery subsidy from May 16

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Ahead of the 12th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) next month, member-nations will hold intensive negotiations between May 16 and 20 in Geneva in a bid to arrive at a deal to curb harmful fishery subsidies.

This ‘Fish Week’, said ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, who is chair of the negotiations, will be an opportunity for members to work on finalising the draft agreement, the multilateral trade body said in a statement. The deal is necessary to ensure sustainable fishing and eliminate IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing dole-outs that have contributed to overcapacity and overfishing.

“…now is the time to end decades of negotiations and conclude the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations so that the results can be adopted by ministers,” the chair said in a video message.

“Ultimately, we should not be negotiating against each other but against the unrelenting depletion of global fish stocks so vital for livelihoods, food security, and a healthy planet,” he said.

As reported by FE, India favours a 25-year exemption from over-fishing subsidy prohibition for developing countries that are not engaged in distant-water fishing. At the same time, it suggests big subsidisers abolish their dole-outs within these 25 years, setting the stage for most developing nations to follow suit.

New Delhi believes that big subsidisers (advanced fishing nations) must take greater responsibility in scrapping their dole-outs and reducing fishing capacities, in sync with the principles of “polluter pays” and “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Massive subsidies, extended mostly by large fishing nations, have contributed to the overexploitation of the world’s fish stocks. An independent study by a group of authors, led by U Rashid Sumaila of University of British Columbia, shows the fishery subsidy in India stood at only $227 million in 2018, way below $7.26 billion in China, $3.80 billion in the EU, $3.43 billion in the US, $3.19 billion in South Korea and $2.86 billion in Japan.

The 12th ministerial conference of the WTO is scheduled to meet on June 12-15 in Geneva.