Statement of India at the open-ended meeting at Head of Delegation level in the Negotiating Group on Rules- Fisheries Subsidies held on 13 February. Statement of India at the open-ended meeting at Head of Delegation level in the Negotiating Group on..

Statement of India at the open-ended meeting at Head of Delegation level in the Negotiating Group on Rules- Fisheries Subsidies held on 13 February.

Informal Open-Ended Meeting at the HoD Level
Negotiating Group on Rules – Fisheries Subsidies
13 February, 2020


Thank you Santiago for convening this meeting to apprise us of the developments in the fisheries subsidies negotiations and for seeking our inputs on the way forward. 

  1. 2. I understand from your statement today that there has been some progress during the last two Clusters but not enough. While we have moved forward in the texts related to IUU fishing and overfished stocks but there has been almost no convergence in the O&O pillar as many different approaches are on the table.  This is a matter of concern given the deadline for delivering the outcome. 
  1. 3. We believe that the O&O pillar requires strong disciplines on harmful subsidies to protect the ocean and for the sustainability of fishing. Therefore, we need to take a close look at the scope of the discipline.  It is satisfying that almost all Members have agreed to limiting the scope to fishing and fishing related activities at sea thereby keeping onshore activities out of it.  This is a positive development as it is a cross-cutting issue across all the three pillars of the discipline. 
  1. 4. The other major issue in scope relates to the specificity element particularly as it relates to fuel subsidies. We have been arguing that a dollar of fuel subsidies whether a horizontal or specific will have the same effect on fish stock. Since fuel subsidies are substantial and constitute about 22% of all subsidies and more than 85% of these subsidies are availed by large scale industrial fishing vessels, we need to look closely at this large component, according to some estimates, of 4 billion dollars of harmful subsidies.   We are also in favour of a small, tight Green Box which includes livelihood support for fishermen during the period which fishing is banned and subsidies for vessel monitoring system as well as equipping boats with navigation and safety equipments.
  1. 5. We need to bear in mind that fisheries subsidies disciplines to be implementable should least impact the large number of subsistence and artisanal fishermen who in many developing countries like India get miniscule subsidies and who would be rendered destitute without such support.  It is also noteworthy that such fishermen operate mostly in territorial seas and EEZ, have low fishing capacity and their presence is least damaging to the ocean.  It was obviously to protect the livelihoods of such fishermen that our leaders agreed to an effective special and differential treatment in SDG 14.6 and our Ministers endorsed it in Buenos Aires.  Therefore, an effective special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs would involve a carve out from the disciplines in territorial sea across all the pillars as well as protecting subsidies in EEZ, except for large scale industrial fishing.  In other words, the discipline should largely target subsidies promoting fishing on the high seas.
  1. 6. As far as different approaches to O&O are concerned, we are willing to work with the various approaches and look for a pragmatic solution with due regard to fisheries conservation and management and Members capacity to implement. We also note that capping subsidies at present levels would reward the big subsidizers who are largely responsible for the present state of the oceans. 
  1. 7. On the process, Chair, we believe that we should move to a consolidated negotiating text in all areas soon and this text should reflect all the points of view put forward even if it contains a large number of brackets and alternatives at this stage. We also believe that Members will have opportunity to provide further inputs into these vertical texts from their subsequent submissions or through new proposals for bridging gaps.
  1. 8. As we are going to have a number of Clusters in the next few months, we would also suggest that more time be devoted to the plenary sessions which could be 3 to 3.5 days from the March Cluster, by when we should have a text, to make a better use of capital based experts for inputs on technical issues. There is also a need for small group meeting for focusing discussion on targeted issues where differences persist.  Further, as the contours of the disciplines under various pillars become clearer, we suggest that special and differential treatment elements under each pillar should be discussed along with other elements of the discipline.
  1. 9. In conclusion, I would suggest that while these negotiations are complex, our strategy should be to keep our work as simple as possible. We should target harmful subsidies which help industrial fishing, promote distant water fishing and which is the life blood of the fish factories in the high seas.  At the same time, we need to protect subsidies available to small and artisanal fishermen specially in developing countries including LDCs. 
  1. 10.Chair, you are in the hot seat. We realize you have one of the most difficult jobs in town.  As you go about your work, you will be subject to criticism, often unfair and self-serving.  My suggestion to you would be to not take undue notice of this.  As you work steadfastly to deliver on the mandate, which is to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies with effective special and differential treatment for developing countries including LDCs who need it, you can count on the continued support of India.