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NEW DELHI : India will tell visiting World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that it is countries that indulge in over-fishing that should stop their fisheries subsidies while others should be allowed 25 years to develop their own fishing capabilities in a sustainable manner.

Okonjo-Iweala is on a three-day visit to understand India’s position on fisheries subsidies ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting next month where developed countries are seeking a deal. She is expected to meet trade minister Piyush Goyal, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and prime minister Narendra Modi among others.

“It is not right to say India is not in favour of or blocking the fisheries subsidy negotiations. India has its own proposal on the table. The Indian proposal is much more stringent on those countries who have created the problem of overfishing and overcapacity," a commerce ministry official said under condition of anonymity.

According to the Indian proposal, countries which are engaged in distant water fishing beyond their natural geographical area should stop their subsidies for 25 years in areas beyond their exclusive economic zones. At the same time, it is seeking a 25-year horizon for other countries to develop their own fishing sector.

“It is based on the principle of polluter pays because fisheries subsidy negotiation is not a trade negotiation. It is a sustainability-based negotiation and in any environmental and sustainability-based negotiation, the concept of polluters pay means whoever has exploited higher should pay the higher cost, take upfront responsibility and give time and space to those who have still not used it because they never had financial resources to invest in that sector. No doubt we will do it in a sustainable and responsible manner. Noone should teach us that we are not concerned about environment or sustainability. It is a common objective but there has to be differentiated responsibility," the official said.

Developed countries claim that fisheries subsidies, estimated to be in tens of billions of dollars annually, create significant distortions in global fish markets and are a major factor contributing to overfishing and overcapacity and the depletion of fishes. Europe, China and some pacific nations are considered to be engaged in distant water fishing.

The official said in earlier negotiations India used to be content with special and differential treatment for 5-10 years. “This time we are seeking to discipline countries who have large industrial fishing fleets, but they are reluctant to accept it. The idea in fisheries subsidy negotiation seems to be to maintain a status quo for themselves and put discipline on those countries who do not have a big industrial fishing fleet or are not doing it in a destructive manner," the official said.

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