WTO Ministerial meeting on Fisheries Subsidies

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    In News

    • Recently, the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference marks a major step forward for ocean sustainability by prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies.

    Background

    • The Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies delivers on the mandate from the 11th Ministerial Conference, as contained in the Buenos Aires Ministerial Decision, and on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6.
    • It is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015, and affirms the WTO’s role in the global fisheries subsidies agenda. 

    Recent decisions taken

    • Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing: It will prohibit subsidies from being provided for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfished stocks.
      • The Agreement will eliminate the subsidies granted to fishing vessels or fishing operators engaged in IUU fishing.
      • Under the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT), Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been allowed a transition period of two years from the date of entry into force of this Agreement.
    • Fishing on high seas: The Agreement also prohibits providing subsidies for fishing on high seas, which are outside the jurisdiction of coastal countries and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/ Arrangements.
    • No prohibition has been imposed on a WTO Member regarding granting or maintaining subsidy to its vessel or operator as long as it is not carrying out IUU.
    • No prohibition on providing subsidies has been imposed for fishing regarding overfished stocks as long as such subsidies are implemented to rebuild the stock to a biologically sustainable level.

    Issues

    • Depletion: It is a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks.
    • Critics argued that this agreement would only restrict and not eradicate subsidies on illegal fishing. 
    • After 20 years of delay, the W.T.O. failed again to eliminate subsidised overfishing and in turn is allowing countries to pillage the world’s oceans.
    • The final negotiated deal lacks the much-needed discipline on subsidies for fishing in other members’ waters and those that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing (OCOF). 

    Fisheries Sector In India 

    • The fisheries sector has been recognized as a powerful income and employment generator as it stimulates growth of a number of subsidiary industries and is a source of cheap and nutritious food, at the same time it is an instrument of livelihood for a large section of the economically backward population of the country. 
    • Fishery sector occupies an important place in the socio-economic development of the country
    • India is the 3rd largest fish producing and 2nd largest aquaculture nation in the world after China. 
    • The Blue Revolution in India demonstrated the importance of the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector. 
    • The sector is considered as a sunrise sector and is poised to play a significant role in the Indian economy in near future. 

    India’s Stand

    • Lowest fisheries subsidies: India’s stand is that we are one of the lowest fisheries subsidies despite such a large population and one of the disciplined nations in sustainably harnessing the fisheries resources.
    • India does not exploit the resources indiscriminately like other advanced fishing nations and India’s fisheries sector primarily depends on several millions of small-scale and traditional fishers.

    India’s Demand 

    • India has been steadfastly demanding that developing countries be given a longer transition period of 25 years to put an end to OCOF subsidies within their EEZ.
      • India’s stand on this issue is rooted in its national interest. 
      • Given its long coastline of nearly 7,500 kilometres, the blue economy — sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth — occupies a cardinal place in India’s development trajectory. 
    • India has set a target of exporting marine products worth $14 billion by 2025.
      • India needs the policy space to invest in developing the marine infrastructure to harness the full potential of the blue economy. 
      • India needs to protect the livelihood concerns of close to four million marine farmers, the majority of whom are engaged in small-scale, artisanal fishing, which does not pose a great threat to sustainability.
    • India’s demand for a longer transition period was not acceptable to many countries who insisted on this period being seven years

    Way Forward

    • The Agreement represents a historic achievement for the membership as the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target to be fully met.
    • Those WTO Members who have provided huge subsidies in the past, and engaged in large-scale industrial fishing, which is responsible for the depletion of fish stocks, should take more obligations to prohibit subsidies based on the ‘polluter pay principle’ and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’.

    World Trade Organisation (WTO)

    • About:
      • Founded in 1995. The WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established in the wake of the Second World War. The WTO is run by its 164 members.
      • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
      • WTO is the only international organisation that deals with the rules of trade between countries.
    • Aim:
      • Its aim is to promote free trade, which is done through trade agreements that are discussed and signed by the member states. 
      • The WTO also provides a forum for countries to negotiate trade rules and settle economic disputes between them.
    • WTO’s Ministerial Conference:
      • The Ministerial Conference is the WTO’s top decision-making body 
      • It usually meets every two years.
      • All members of the WTO are involved in the Ministerial Conference and they can take decisions on all matters covered under any multilateral trade agreements.
    • Decision-making of WTO:
      • Unlike other organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank, WTO does not delegate power to a board of directors or an organisational chief. 
      • All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees and any member can exercise a veto.
    • WTO and India:
      • India has visibly benefitted from the open market reforms that it embraced in the early 1990s. Through WTO India can ensure a rule-based global trade regime.
      • The dispute settlement body of the WTO is important for India as India has appealed to it seeking exemptions from the import duties on steel and aluminium imposed by the US.

    Source: PIB