National Council Meeting (Raipur-Chhattisgarh), 12th-13th June, 2010

Stop FTA

Nation has witnessed its worst in the post globalization era in terms of fast decline of agriculture and small scale sector, driven by WTO agreements and indiscriminate opening up of the economy for multinational corporations. Per capita production of almost all agricultural commodities has been declining continuously, unemployment is on rise; and disappointed fanners and other vulnerable workers are being pushed to death either naturally or by suicide route. While WTO, which was propagated as the mantra for free trade, is dying slowly owing to its own contradictions and exploitative nature, government is trying to push Free Trade Agreements, that is bilateral trade and investment treaties with other countries or regional blocks.

Already FTA with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian free trade agreement ( SAFT A ) is causing havoc to the domestic auto-components industry’ plantation crops sectors, edible oils, industry, textiles and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a wide variety of sectors, free rein investments from ASEAN is all set to start a new wave of takeovers of indigenous units in a wide variety of sectors, which would cause wide spread industrial sickness into several sectors.

These treaties, like the WTO, unjustly impact important public interest laws, regulations. policies and our import duty structure in ways that virtually touch all aspects of our lives. However, FT As are worse than the WTO because they demand much more. The Government of India is hoping to conclude this year two of the biggest FT As proposed-one with the European. Union and the other with Japan. The Gal is in the process of negotiating, expanding or developing at least 24 FT As.

FTAs create legally binding obligations on the government such that livelihoods related to agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing stand to be severely affected. FT A demands in trade in services, investment and intellectual property rights impact our ability to access affordable healthcare, medicines, education, and municipal services such as water and sanitation, to name a few examples. Fanners Rights to save seeds and the ability of our citizens to prevent theft of our traditional knowledge is also under attack through FT As. Though there was much resistance to TRIPS, Investment policy, Government Procurement (the government’s purchases of goods and services), Competition policy, Labor Standards and Environmental issues in the WTO- TRIPS plus and Five plus-these are problematic areas of many FT As (particularly with developed countries) that India is negotiating.

Immediate Cause for Concern: EU-India FTA
European Commission and the Gal started negotiating the EU-India FT A in June 2007. This FT A will mean a massive slashing of our import duties (up to 95% of all goods produced) and would include trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, Competition Policy and government procurement. While Europe is facing its worst economic crisis presently, our policy makers are trying to lend them help by giving undue market access to the industrial products and services produced by countries of European Union by dismantling tariff and non-tariff restrictions against our national interest. The impact of reducing as many as 95% of our import duties down to zero or close to zero percent in seven years will result in import surges-especially since EU agriculture imports in particular are heavily subsidized in a wide range of products such as sugar, dairy, tomato paste, poultry, to name a few. This would also adversely affect the future growth of food processing industry in the country. This agreement also includes opening up mining sector and also dismantling of export restriction on our minerals.

Europe’s multinational companies dominate global services trade and investment. The FT A’s services and investment provisions would ensure their ease of entry with severe implications for India’s existing and future small and homegrown industries and businesses related to agriculture, manufacturing and services. There is also a danger that government may accept EU’s demand to include TRIPS-plus intellectual property protection, further endangering our national interest.

There is a total lack of transparency in the on going negotiations with EU regarding this FTA, which is a major cause of concern. So far ten rounds of negotiations have already been completed and nation has been kept completely in dark regarding the contents of negotiations.

This national council of Swadeshi Jagran Manch demands that:
The process of negotiations with EU be stopped immediately
A white paper is released and discussed in the Parliament on the cumulative socio-economic and ecological impacts of all Ff As with a separate white paper on the El.l-India FTA, which GOI is negotiating, especially addressing social inequality and discrimination.