India voices concern over US' forced labour proposal amid subsidy talks

Asia's Tech News Daily

wto, india, fishing, illegal fishing, trade issues

India has raised concerns at the US’ proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that mandates countries to submit information on any fishing vessel and operator that makes use of forced labour. New Delhi argued that the WTO is not the appropriate forum for labour issues, and the issue is not part of the mandate that leaders had agreed on for the ongoing negotiations, which are expected to conclude at a key ministerial conference in December.

The proposal expands the ban on subsidies for illegal fishing to also cover transhipping and refuelling at sea, which as per the US, may exacerbate the problem of undetected forced labour.

“India has concerns about the proposal as the WTO is not the correct forum for labour and other non-trade issues,” said an official.

Linkage of labour with fisheries negotiations also raises systemic issues about linking human rights to trade laws, which has been an unresolved debate for many years. “The fish text is still imbalanced and now forced labour has been brought in. This will complicate matters,” said an official from a developing country.

wto, india, fishing, illegal fishing, trade issues

The US had been pushing for the inclusion of forced labour even as India has suggested a moratorium for 25 years on subsidies provided by the distant water fishing nations for fishing or fishing-related activities beyond their exclusive economic zone. New Delhi has said this type of fishing is the most harmful and cannot be continued without huge subsidies either for construction of large industrial vessels or allowing these vessels with subsidised fuel to exploit the high seas and waters of other countries.

“India is fully committed to having disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies by MC12 if the demands of developing countries having negligible industrial fishing fleet and less developed countries on Special and Differential Treatment for future policy space to diversify and develop the fishing sector sustainably, including in the high seas (are met),” India submitted before WTO earlier this month.

Trade experts said many countries are trying to include non-trade issues such as gender, labour, environment, MSMEs and ecommerce in the WTO agenda while existing issues of a permanent solution for public stockholding and special safeguard mechanism remain unresolved.

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