Mr. Ir. Joko Widodo
The President of Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Luhut Binsar Panjaitan
The Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investation Minister of Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Sakti Wahyu Trenggono
The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister of Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Muhammad Lutfi
The Trade Minister of Republic of Indonesia
Ms. Retno L. Marsudi
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Dandy Satria Iswara
The Indonesian Ambassador to the WTO in Geneva
To whom it may concern,
We are writing this letter to you dear ladies and gentlemen ahead of plans for agreement (or perhaps disagreement) binding rules to eliminate fisheries subsidies at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (World Trade Organization).
We, fisherfolks’ organizations and civil society groups who are concerned with food-fishery issues, care about the life of capture fisheries and are greatly troubled regarding the livelihoods of small and traditional fisherfolks. Since this Agreement aims to eliminate subsidies for the fisheries sector which we rely on in-favor-of our livelihoods.
Fisheries are an important sector for livelihoods in Indonesia. According to 2017 FAO data, Indonesia has 2.6 million fishers which is equivalent to 6.44% of fisherfolks operating globally.
The agreement being negotiated is based on the mandate of Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 and to meet the sustainability objectives of marine conservation. Small-scale fisherfolks in Indonesia operate much more sustainably than the fisheries sector of developed countries and fishing countries that operate in distant waters. However, we are greatly concerned that Indonesia will be required to remove all subsidies under the 3 pillars of the negotiations; Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfished stock (OS) and overcapacity and overfishing (OCOF).
In this regard, we would like to convey the following specific points from the latest publicly available text to all of you ladies and gentlemen:
- Our concern is that the exceptions to “low-income and resource-poor fisheries and fishing activities” are extremely limited. Under the three pillars of the negotiation, the exclusion of fisherfolks is limited to those operating within 12 Nautical Miles (NTM) or territorial waters, but does not apply if they fish in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Small fishers often cross this 12 NTM limit, sometimes even without being noticed. Such WTO agreements mean they cannot get subsidies anymore. In addition, under the pillars of IUU and overfishing, exemptions are limited to 2 years and may even be reduced during negotiations. We are of the view that this is utterly unfair and unrealistic given that small fishers will continue to remain vulnerable and marginalized even after decades. Therefore, such time and geographical limitations will put small-scale fishers in great difficulty and therefore must be rejected by the government. Our country, Indonesia, must have full flexibility to provide subsidies for fishers and fishing activities up to the EEZ and the continental zone in perpetuity.
- Moreover the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recognizes that states have full rights over the EEZ and up to 250 NM in the continental zone. We cannot allow the WTO to deny this right and impose its jurisdiction and rules on the sovereign rights of our countries.
- The FAO’s definition of IUU itself is problematic. There are many small fishers who cannot access the formal mechanism of registration and formalization of their status and fall into the unreported and unregulated category, in as much as such government mechanisms are weak in many areas. That is why their ability to take advantage of certain government support has been compromised. Depriving small fishers of access to subsidies on the basis of such a wrong categorization is even more unfair and unacceptable.
- In addition, there is heavy pressure on developing countries such as Indonesia to accept weak special and differential treatment (S&D). In a matter of fact, exceptions for small-scale fishers should not fall under S&D, as this is not a country-level issue but specific to the scale of fishing. As part of S&D, Indonesia must seek full release from all obligations under Paragraph 5.4.a for at least 25 years.
- Under the pillars of overcapacity and overfishing, Indonesia has also been exempted from special and differential treatment under Paragraph 5.4.b.i which is limited to countries that contribute less than 0.7% of annual global marine capture. The bigger concern for us is that (Footnote) 12 prohibits any country with a 10% or more share of global marine capture from using any of the S&D outlined for OCOF. As Indonesia’s share is currently around 8.6%, Indonesia could lose its right to use any S&D if its share increases even a little. In fact it can happen even if the percentage of other countries goes down for some reason (e.g. as of this proposed rule) without us capture more fish. This will put Indonesian fishers at great risk since the exclusion for low-income and resource-poor fishers is linked to S&D. This 10% threshold is unacceptable and should be rejected.
- We were even more surprised to recognize that under Article 5.1.1, Members who are actually involved in industry and fishing in distant waters which have been destroying and depleting marine resources, receive a blank bill to continue to provide subsidies free of charge. There are easy requirements for fishing in distant waters and they have sophisticated management and monitoring mechanisms in place. We want to point out that only wealthy countries can afford to institute such a mechanism using massive subsidies for decades. This is nothing but reverse special and differential treatment. Supposedly, these developed countries have to bear a higher share of the commitments as they have historically been responsible for creating the state of our damaged oceans nowadays. However, current negotiations have not taken this into account.
- The negotiations also did not take into account the fact that many developing countries such as Indonesia have large fisherfolk populations and provide extremely small subsidies per fisher. Even according to OECD estimates for subsidies (based on FAO data on the number of fishers), Indonesia provides subsidies of around USD 92 per fisher while the US provides subsidies of USD 4956, Japan provides subsidies of USD 8385 and Canada provides subsidies of USD 31800 per fisher. The comparison must be on a per fisher basis and not absolute.
Observing at the current negotiations, it is clear that the outcome will be massively disproportionately against small-scale fishers in developing countries and in favor of wealthy countries with industrial and distant waters fisheries.
Any Agreement signed by MC12 will only reaffirm the right of powerful countries to unfairly subsidize their fishing companies and consolidate unfair market power over the millions of fishers who struggle to make a living in Indonesia. We are immensely worried that Indonesian fishers, especially small-scale fishers, will suffer big losses. Moreover, it is also important to note that in the current situation where fuel prices are extremely high, reducing and ending subsidies would put us in grave danger now. Nor are we sure how this Agreement will allow flexibility to deal with such crises in the future.
We urge the Indonesian government not to approve the current fisheries subsidy text as it will jeopardize the livelihoods and food security of fisherfolks and the fisheries sector as a whole. It is better to have no deal than a bad deal, which will bring more harm than good to the Indonesian people.
- Federasi Serikat Nelayan Nusantara / Nusantara Fishers Union Federation (FSNN)
- Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ)
- Indonesian Human Rights Committe for Social Justice (IHCS)
- Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan / People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA)
- Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia / Traditional Fisher Folk Union (KNTI)
- Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia / Confederation of Indonesian People’s Movements (KPRI)
- Persaudaraan Perempuan Nelayan Indonesia / Indonesian Fisherwomen’s Union (PPNI)
- Perkumpulan INISIATIF / The Society Initiative
- Serikat Petani Indonesia / Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI)
- Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia / Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) / Friend of The Earth (FoE) Indonesia