Traidcraft Exchange | 29 July 2022
Joint UK and Indian civil society statement on the proposed Free Trade Agreement
We, as organisations representing Indian and UK civil society, call on the Indian and UK Governments to rethink the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated.
We recognise that trade has the potential to bring benefits to both countries. However an FTA between the two countries, as outlined in the UK Government’s Strategic Approach report and in the limited statements made by both Governments, will fail to serve the interests of large numbers of ordinary people in India and the UK or to align with Sustainable Development Goals.
This approach to our countries’ trading relationship prioritises increased trade at any cost, and compromises the ability of governments to design policy that supports the protection of the environment and tackling climate change, and promotes local businesses, secure livelihoods and access to public services and medicines. We are particularly concerned these negative impacts will be disproportionately borne by women and other already marginalised groups.
The UK Government has an explicit goal of signing as many FTAs as possible, without a published strategy outlining how it will ensure these align with its commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and other international agreements. As a result, its current approach to trade fails to properly align with fundamental human and labour rights, and our countries’ shared commitment to addressing the climate crisis.
The ongoing FTA negotiations are being conducted in a non-transparent, anti-democratic way. The Indian and UK Governments have offered civil society and trade unions very limited access to information or opportunity to input into negotiations, particularly in comparison to business groups. Parliamentary input into and scrutiny of final deals will likewise be insufficient. There is no parliamentary ratification process in India, and in the UK parliamentarians are denied a guaranteed and meaningful vote on FTAs.
We appeal to the Governments of both countries to halt negotiations, ensure these urgent concerns are addressed and craft a trade relationship fit for 21st century challenges.