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‘FTA with Asean won’t hit fisheries’

The Statesman, India

‘FTA with Asean won’t hit fisheries’

3 October 2009

NEW DELHI, 3 OCT: Amid criticism by political rivals and apprehensions that the recently signed free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) would be detrimental to India’s agricultural and fisheries sectors, the government today said such fears had no basis.

“The India-Asean FTA is beneficial to all the signatories and it will not adversely affect the fishing community as is being spread by the communists”, Mr KV Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, told reporters here.

Referring to the Left parties’ continued criticism that the pact would harm the country’s fishing sector and areas such as coconut cultivation and business, he accused the CPI-M of adopting an anti-development position.

The minister’s remarks come a day after the Kerala unit of the CPI-M formed a 910-km human chain from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargode to protest the free trade agreement with Asean.

Emphasising the need for modernisation of the fisheries sector, Mr Thomas said: “India should resort to modern technology, better infrastructure and business practices to ensure global competitiveness.”

He, however, added that the traditional fishing community should be protected from the effects of modernisation. “India will have to strike a balance between modernisation and the interests of the traditional fishing community while making the sector internationally competitive,” the minister of state for agriculture said.

The CPI-M general secretary, Mr Prakash Karat, has termed the FTA as a gross violation of democratic norms and called upon the Centre to review it.
Mr Karat has also alleged that the agreement with Asean would have disastrous consequences for the economy of Kerala adding that the worst hit would be Kerala’s coconut and rubber growers. SNS