Government officials highlighted data to argue that developing countries were allowed to provide domestic subsidies which were a fraction of what some of the developed countries were permitted. “We are allowed to provide around $400 per capita support, while it goes up to nearly $40,000 in some of the developed countries. What we are asking for is a level-playing field and protecting the interests of small farmers and fishermen,” an official said.
The comments came as WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala touched down in Delhi ahead of next month’s ministerial meeting, where the developed countries are seeking an agreement on fisheries, arguing that it will crack down on illegal fishing. She met commerce & industry minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday evening
India is, however, of the view that its proposals need to be included before negotiations. Officials said that instead of merely asking developing countries to cap their support to fishermen, developed countries need to fish only in their waters for 25 years. “It is not a sustainability based negotiations but is meant to ensure that countries with large fishing business continue to have market access, while stopping others from growing,” an officer said, describing the current proposals for an agreement as “imbalanced”, which will benefit some European and Pacific countries apart from China.
The official added all subsidies by developing countries were not bad. They pointed to payments for fishermen to avoid fishing during the breeding season as a case in point. Trashing the argument that an agreement on fisheries subsidy was crucial to ensure WTO’s credibility, a government source said that ensuring a permanent solution to public stockholding limits was equally crucial since the trade body’s members had given the mandate on multiple occasions.