DNA | Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Free trade agreements may aid toxic-waste trade
Mumbai: As the negotiations for signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with trade partners such as Japan and the European Union (EU) gather momentum, so do concerns over environment and waste dumping.
Experts fear the FTAs would facilitate trade of wastes from the developed economies into India.
Apprehensions are that by including wastes such used electronic devices, oil contaminated products, medical waste, incinerator ash and waste from chemical industries in the list of goods enjoying preferential tariffs, waste traders would get free play.
Article X-15 of the India-EU FTA talks about ‘non-new goods’, and says that neither party shall apply to non-new goods, measures, including enforcement measures, which are more restrictive than to new goods.
The India-Japan FTA, which is drafted on lines similar to the Japan-ASEAN FTA, also talks about easier access to scrap and waste derived from manufacturing, mining, agriculture, incineration, sewage treatment operations, say sources.
According to Gopal Krishna, convener, environmental body Toxics Watch, FTAs will legitimise the already existing trade in waste. “Concerns are over inclusion of toxic technologies and other waste as goods or commodities for tariff reduction.”
Ravi Agarwal, director, environmental NGO Toxics Links agrees.
“We are not against FTAs. But there should be no space for trading of any waste material.”
Experts feel the FTAs could violate the Basel Convention on the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, the international treaty designed to reduce movements of hazardous wastes between nations, which India is a signatory to.
FTA negotiations with Japan and EU may be concluded this year.
“Negotiators are looking at the FTAs only from a commerce perspective. The energy being shown in concluding the agreements is increasing key concerns over issues such as environment, health, and farming, which could be unfavourably dealt with in the FTAs,” says a New Delhi-based intellectual property and healthcare expert.
Among other things, the FTAs are also pressing heavily for stricter IP measures for patented drugs, including provisions such as data exclusivity and patent term extensions, which can impact early entry of low-cost generic drugs.
In addition, they push for India to accede to provisions that could crush farmers’ privileges of sharing, exchanging, and selling seeds to other farmers, which could make them pawns in the hands of MNCs engaged in crop research.