Goyal bats for developing world at WTO, says mistakes made on agriculture should not be repeated

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Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. (Photo/ANI)
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. (Photo/ANI)

New Delhi [India], July 15 (ANI): Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday strongly pitched for the rights of developing countries at the ministerial meeting of the WTO on the crucial fisheries subsidy negotiations.

The meeting was attended by ministers and ambassadors from other WTO member countries and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Goyal said India is very keen to finalize the agreement because irrational subsidies and overfishing by many countries are hurting Indian fishermen and their livelihoods.

He spoke for preserving India's right to high seas and domestic fishing on par with developed countries and said "India can't sacrifice future ambition";

Goyal expressed his disappointment that the membership is still short of finding the right balance and fairness in the agreement.

The minister also emphasized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's thrust to promote the fishing sector and protect small fishermen.

Goyal cautioned that mistakes made during the Uruguay Round three decades ago that allowed unequal and trade-distorting entitlements for select developed countries, particularly in agriculture, should not be repeated.

He said these unfairly constrained less developed members who did not have the capacity and resources to support their industry or farmers then.

Goyal 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 noted 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," he said.

According to an official release, the minister said that per capita fisheries subsidy given by most developing countries is minuscule compared to advanced fishing nations.

Goyal, who is also Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution and for Textiles, noted 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, he said.

Responding to the specific question posed by the DG 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.

He said 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 the larger time period for any transition.

Noting that protection of the environment is ingrained in the Indian ethos for ages, Goyal said India is committed to concluding the negotiations, as long as these provide 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. (ANI)

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