India set to oppose move to withdraw fisheries subsidies at WTO


New Delhi: Poor and artisanal fishermen in India will be in crisis if the  World Trade Organisation (WTO) accepts the demand of developed nations to withdraw existing disciplines on fisheries subsidies.

The developed countries have been exerting pressure to withdraw subsidies, and the demand would be discussed at the 12th edition of the WTO ministerial conference to be held in Geneva from November 30 to December 3.

The move is to control Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. It has been argued that IUU fishing is posing a threat to marine ecosystems and the revenues of small-time fishers.

However, small-time fishers, who do not engage in IUU fishing, will be the worst hit if the subsidies are withdrawn.

The WTO has instructed to confine the subsidies only to those who fish within 12 nautical miles (nm) of the shore, and that too, for just two years after an agreement is reached.

Subsidies should not be extended for fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within 200 nm from the shore. India has demanded appropriate and effective special and differential treatment to poor and artisanal fishermen should be extended to all fishermen, including those fishing in the EEZ, for the next 25 years.

Supreme council

The ministerial conference is the WTO's supreme council which convenes every two years. WTO makes its decision based on consensus and not a majority. It has to be seen how India and other developing nations will take on the developed countries' demand for withdrawing subsidies.

Law of the sea

According to the Law of the Sea formulated between 1973 and 1982, each country's sovereign territorial water extends to a maximum of 12 nm (22 km) from their coasts, while the 200 nm (370) beyond the territorial waters is the respective country's exclusive economic zone. The high sea is beyond the EEZ.

In India, States have the rights over territorial seas.

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