Not blocking fish subsidy talks, says India at WTO

Not blocking fish subsidy talks, says India at WTO

India has refuted allegations that it is not in favour of the agreement, or is blocking the negotiations, for an agreement on fishery subsidies. But it has indicated to the World Trade Organization that the current draft on the subsidies pact is “unbalanced” and cannot be accepted for negotiations unless it takes into account the suggestions proposed by New Delhi, an official said.

India’s priority at the WTO is to level the playing field in existing agreements such as agriculture.

“The present text is unbalanced. And only when the Indian suggestion is considered and incorporated suitably, only then it will be a balanced text for negotiations,” the official said. The 164 WTO members have a few weeks to discuss the various proposals on the table and India is willing to provide that leadership where it can talk on behalf of developing countries, the official added.

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal will convey India’s position to WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is on a three-day visit to India.

New Delhi has insisted that it will preserve its future policy space before getting into any agreement in the coming years, while protecting small and marginal fishing communities from taking any disproportionate or less responsibility.

“So, it is not right to say that India is not in favour of or blocking the fishery subsidies, negotiation; India has its own proposal on table,” the official said.

India has said it will not rush to sign the agreement on fisheries unless its concerns are addressed, as the fisheries agreement proposals are not meant to deal with sustainability but aimed at ensuring market access for European countries, Pacific countries and China.

New Delhi has proposed that countries that are engaged in distant water fishing cap their subsidies in areas beyond their exclusive economic zone for the next 25 years, a move that indicates India’s “changed stance” that has “rattled the WTO system”.

“This is the change in stance because earlier we used to be happy with a special and differential treatment in the form of transition or carve out but this time, we are also proposing disciplines for the big countries,” he said, adding that countries with large industrial fishing fleet are not willing to abide.

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