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Labour unions, civil society groups seek review on Centre's FTA plan

Labour unions, civil society groups seek review on Centre's FTA plan

In a letter to Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representatives of organisations such as Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Swadeshi Andolan, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India Trade Union Congress, Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan etc., have asked the government to make public the negotiating texts of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) India and other 15 countries are working on.

Eight organisations cutting across political affiliations have asked the Central government to make public its review of India's existing free trade agreements (FTAs) and their benefits to the country's economy.

In a letter to Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representatives of organisations such as Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Swadeshi Andolan, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India Trade Union Congress, Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan etc., have asked the government to make public the negotiating texts of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) India and other 15 countries are working on.

It wanted the government to conduct a socio-economic and human rights impact assessment of RCEP and hold public consultations with all who will be directly affected by the agreement. The memorandum also wanted the government to build a consensus among state governments over its decision to negotiate the mega trade deal.  

The organisations alleged that India's FTA with the 10 nation economic block ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) has negatively impacted India's agriculture. According to them, post ASEAN-India FTA, import of pepper and palm oil from Malaysia increased 184 per cent and 529 per cent, respectively. "Thailand tamarind import increased 214 per cent, chickpea import from Myanmar increased 261 per cent," it stated.

The organisations point out that in the recent past, India has followed an aggressive FTA strategy and signed several of them without empirical cost-benefit analysis.

The mammoth trade balance with RCEP partners raises significant alarm over rationale of RCEP's benefit to India, it said.

The group points out that an agreement with countries that have advanced manufacturing capabilities will pose significant threat to India's manufacturing sector and jeopardise the government's 'Make in India' effort.

The 12th round of RCEP negotiations will take place in Perth, Australia from April 22 to 26.