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Memorandum submitted to union commerce minister and agriculture minister

To

Shri. Suresh Prabhu

Honorable Minister for Commerce and Industry

Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi 11017, India

Sir,

Sub : An appeal to take forward the WTO negotiations on fisheries

This is in relation to multi-ministerial meeting in New Delhi on the 19th and 20th of March, 2018 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. One of the important points on the agenda of this meeting is the issue of finding a permanent solution to the stockpiling of food to ensure the food security of India. India’s decision at the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) aimed at ensuring that the nation-state’s sovereignty must be maintained all the way to the Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as resolving the larger imbalances within the WTO before dealing with the issue of fisheries subsidies removal, has been welcomed by the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF).

For the small scale fishworkers of India, the linear correlation between subsidies-overcapacity-overfishing has been worrying. This approach relies on the Malthusian overfishing theory and pays all its attention to population and poverty while diverting attention away from the larger drivers of overfishing and the inherent imbalances within the WTO. In addition to the already existing threats to our livelihoods, the move to remove subsidies acts to exacerbate the threat.In the case of subsidies, the member countries pushing for their removal forget that highlighting subsidies as a contributor to market distortions and ‘negative resource oriented effects’ must be balanced against its tremendous ‘positive people oriented effects’

Therefore, we look forward to the outcomes of this informal meeting with the hope that they foster deliberations that can ultimately influence trade negotiations at the next WTO round in favour of developing nations.

However, as India enters her third cycle of Blue Revolution, the NFF is reminded of the impacts the first two cycles have had on our livelihoods. With the aim to re-trace the history of the WTO and of fisheries policies in India, we have commissioned a dossier with the hope to inform national and international debates on the subject of fisheries subsidies and fishworker struggle in India. We have attached a summary of this dossier along with this letter.

The NFF, on behalf of the small-scale fishworkers it represents, would like to place before your office the urgent appeal to take forward the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies through a national consultation process. Bringing together representatives from various communities and coastal states would assist with a process to reform national policy, alongside the process your office has undertaken to reform the WTO.

Our kindest regards,

Narendra Patil
(Chairperson, NFF)

T Peter
(General Secretary, NFF)

Copy to: Honorable Minister for Agriculture

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