The push was made in the first of the six clusters of fish subsidy talks held last week at WTO, aimed at securing a global agreement on reducing harmful fisheries subsidies by June this year, said officials familiar with the development.
WTO members are negotiating to finalise disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, they said. The negotiations have made progress with draft texts emerging in respect of IUU and overfished stocks. However, in overfishing and overcapacity, several approaches are being discussed including a new proposal from Canada.
The US and Australia are also pushing for a proposal of capping of subsidies.
“WTO members are grappling to find convergence to an agreed approach to address the issue of subsidies contributing to overfishing and overcapacity,” said an official aware of the details.
African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group), Sri Lanka and a group of least developed countries (LDCs) are supportive of special and differential treatment (S&DT), and most members are supportive of S&DT in territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles.
“India reiterated its demand to exclude territorial waters from future disciplines, particularly as this is where most small scale and artisanal fishing takes place and the right to provide subsidies for high seas fishing,” said a Geneva-based official.
However, several developed countries led by the US are opposed to horizontal S&DT for fishing in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and high seas. EEZ is a boundary of sea zone extending up to 200 nautical miles from the shore where coastal countries have sovereign jurisdiction to explore and regulate marine resources.
“This is also due to the fear that China being the biggest marine catch producer will benefit the most from horizontal S&DT,” said the official quoted first.
China said it was open to discussions on S&DT and willing to shoulder obligations commensurate with its capacity.