Commerce Minister bats strongly for India and the developing world at the WTO
Different countries are at different stages of development, Piyush Goyal said
Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday spoke strongly for the rights of developing countries at the Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the crucial fisheries subsidy negotiations.
Delivering a strong statement on behalf of India, Goyal stated that India is very keen to finalize the agreement because irrational subsidies and overfishing by many countries is hurting Indian fishermen and their livelihood, however expressing disappointment that the Membership is still short of finding the right balance and fairness in the agreement.
“India is very keen to finalize the agreement because irrational subsidies and overfishing by many countries is hurting Indian fishermen and their livelihood. However, I am disappointed to note that we are still short of finding the right balance and fairness in the agreement. Let me share my views on the problem areas,” he said.
Goyal cautioned that we should not repeat the mistakes made during the Uruguay Round three decades ago that allowed unequal and trade-distorting entitlements for select developed country Members, particularly in agriculture. These unfairly constrained less developed members who did not have the capacity and resources to support their industry or farmers then.
“First, we should not repeat the mistakes made during the Uruguay Round that allowed unequal and trade-distorting entitlements for select developed Members, particularly in agriculture, while unfairly constraining less developed members who did not have the capacity and resources to support their industry or farmers then. Fisheries are a common endowment to humanity, a global public commons. Therefore, the sharing of this should be in an equitable and just manner,” he said.
He expressed concern that any unbalanced or unequal agreement now would bind us into current fishing arrangements, which may not meet future requirements. He pointed out that it is essential that big subsidizers take greater responsibility to reduce their subsidies and fishing capacities, in accordance with the principles of ‘Polluter Pays’ and ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’.
Goyal observed that any agreement must recognize that different countries are at different stages of development and that current fishing arrangements reflect their current economic capacities. The agreement has to provide for current and future needs.
While putting forth India’s demands, he said that the per capita fisheries subsidy given by most developing countries is minuscule compared to advanced fishing nations. Goyal clearly demanded that countries like India who are yet to develop fishing capacities, cannot sacrifice their future ambitions. Allowing advanced nations to continue grant of subsidies is unequal, unfair and unjust.
While responding to the specific question posed by the Director General, WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the ministers, he said that limiting Special & Differential Treatment (S&DT) to poor and artisanal fishermen only is neither appropriate nor affordable, and is not acceptable. S&DT is required to not only protect livelihoods of poor fishermen but also to address food security concerns, have necessary policy space for developing the fisheries sector and the need for a larger time period for any transition.
Highlighting that protection of environment is ingrained in the Indian ethos for ages and has been repeatedly stated by our Prime Minister, Goyal urged that India is committed to conclude the negotiations, as long as it provides for balancing current and future fishing needs, preserving space for equitable growth in fishing capacities in future, and an effective S&DT without any imbalances.