Trade unions sound alarm over FTAs; say hitting economy

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Financial Express | 21 April 2016

Trade unions sound alarm over FTAs; say hitting economy

Raising concerns over trade negotiations with regional blocs like RCEP, trade unions have asked the government to stop all talks for free trade pacts while asserting that such pacts are hurting the country’s economy.

In a letter to Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, an anti-FTA committee of trade unions, including CITU and BMS, said that it was “alarmed to know that India is seriously engaging with RCEP like trade agreements, instead of first assessing its impact on our economy”.

“We have learnt that the RCEP negotiations include issues that affect every aspect of the Indian economy and lives of our people…every year we are reducing the customs duty according to the trade agreements. This is creating big revenue deficit and this is one of the reasons for inflation,” it said.

The panel said that these FTAs, with reduced policy space and increasing current account deficit, have the potential to cause a major crisis in Indian economy.

“The mammoth trade balance with RCEP partners raise significant alarm over rationale of RCEP’s benefit to India and its people,” it said.

The deeper liberalisation attempted through RCEP has the potential to irreparably damage both the agriculture and manufacturing sector for decades to come, the letter said.

“We call upon the government to immediately halt India’s engagement in all current FTA discussions including RCEP. Make public the review of India’s existing FTAs and their benefits to the development of Indian economy and its people,” it said.

Government should also immediately terminate all existing FTAs which have harmed India’s interest and it should conduct a socio-economic and human rights impact assessment of the proposed RCEP agreement,” it said.

Copy of the letter was also marked to the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Agriculture Minister.

People who have signed the letter include Amitava Guha (CITU), Virjesh Upadhyay (BMS) and K V Biju (Swadeshi Andolan).

India has so far implemented several FTAs inclduing with Asean, Singapore, Japan and Korea. It is also negotiating a meagra deal RCEP involving 16 countries and with the European Union.

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