WTO gives in to India’s demands, agrees to fisheries subsidies and TRIPS waiver

After vital negotiations that lasted five nights, 164 World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers reached a historic declaration on Thursday on the discipline of harmful fisheries subsidies and the waiver of the TRIPS Agreement. Official announcements about the deal have already arrived. “All fully agreed multilateral agreements were signed unanimously” during the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the WTO in Geneva, informed a government source, quoted by the PTI.

WTO members reached the agreement on fisheries subsidies about 9 years after the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali (2013), where member countries signed a trade facilitation agreement to promote a transport flow of goods across global borders. According to sources, this is the first time the WTO has addressed issues of overfishing, deep-sea fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The law now enacted will ensure the protection of countless fishing communities around the world who depend on marine resources for their income and food security.

India plays a leading role in WTO negotiations

It is pertinent to mention that India took global leadership on all issues and was at the center of the WTO negotiations. India has also tabled aggressive draft texts in all pillars of the WTO negotiations. The Fisheries Negotiating Committee at the WTO Ministerial Meeting was headed by Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. They focused on protecting the interests of Indian fishermen and farmers. “India’s priority is to safeguard the long-term interests of farmers and fishers. We will continue to be the voice of developing and less-developed countries and work for equitable outcomes,” New Delhi said in a statement. communicated before MC12.

“In the case of India, the sovereign views on EEZs (Exclusive Economic Zones) have been firmly established. This is truly a great achievement,” the source said, adding that key stakeholders who have benefited from these “historic decisions” taken by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference are fishers, farmers, food security, multilateralism, trade and business, especially the digital economy and MSMEs, PTI reported.

The WTO agreements in detail

WTO Ministerial Declarations examine a variety of issues such as an emergency response to food insecurity, the WTO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and preparedness for new pandemics. Ministerial decisions on the World Food Programme, the exemption of food purchases from export bans or restrictions, the work program on electricity trade. Finally, WTO members finally signed an agreement on the TRIPS waiver and the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement.

The deal is in line with India’s call to promote sustainable fishing and press for many countries to abandon “irrational subsidies” and overfishing that were hurting Indian fishermen. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, around 34% of marine fish stocks are already exploited beyond sustainable levels. India had also called for “special and differential rights” to protect the lives and livelihoods of fishers and sufficient time to put in place the implementation of disciplines on overfishing or underfishing.

(Image: @FinlandeGenève/Twitter)

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