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New EU trade agreement: Right to food in India threatened

Ecofair Trade Dialogue | 06/12/2011

New EU Trade Agreement: Right to Food in India threatened

- Analysis of the Trade Agreement between EU-India (PDF, 75 pages)
- Discussion Paper: "Human Rights in EU Trade Policy – Between Ambition and Reality" (PDF, 23 pages)

The European Union (EU) and the Government of India are currently negotiating a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that aims to liberalise ’substantially all trade’ between the two trading blocks on a reciprocal basis. Beyond trade in goods, the FTA will contain chapters on services, investment, public procurement, intellectual property rights and other areas. In all these areas, commitments are likely to go far beyond current commitments agreed on within the WTO. Officially, the EU Commission and the Government of India are aiming to conclude the agreement by February 2012. In these negotiations the European Commission (EC) is insisting on the principle of ’reciprocity’, and seeking to avoid asymmetries in the level of commitments between the two parties. This logic of reciprocity has been criticised by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), given the great imbalances between the EU and India regarding economic development, wealth, poverty and hunger.

Recommendations concerning the FTA between India and the EU

- Before signing any FTA, both the EU and India must conduct a comprehensive HRIA following the guiding principles of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

- Before concluding any agreement, a meaningful consultation of all stakeholders, particularly the most vulnerable, must be conducted, and all drafts of the agreement and negotiation documents must be made transparent and open for public debate.

- All tariff lines for poultry and dairy products should be exempted from tariff cuts. Nor should a standstill clause freeze them at the currently applied tariff. Scope must be maintained for policy responses to developments in supply and demand, and national and international prices.

- The FTA must allow for asymmetric treatment of the partners. A comprehensive HRIA should identify all products that can affect the right to food and other human rights, and therefore require further protection. The coverage of the FTA must leave enough space for all these products, be they agricultural or non-agricultural products.

- An effective and easily applicable Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) must be established, to enable India to react to sudden import surges. This SSM must include a volume and a price trigger.

- The FTA should not include provisions that would make it more difficult for India to maintain the existing ban on European FDI in multi-brand retail. India’s policy space for restricting such FDI must be maintained whenever the right to food is found to be violated or threatened. Any possible opening of the sector must be reversible, in case of threats to the right to food.

- Any provision that limits Indian policy spaces for public interest land regulations to secure land tenure and to redistribute land to landless people under the rule of law must be avoided in the FTA. This would require, for example, a removal of investor-State settlement and of the umbrella clause, clear public interest exemption clauses from FET and from protection from direct and indirect expropriation. It would also require the inclusion of human rights principles and mechanisms such as Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

- A human rights clause in the agreement must allow for the revision of any provision that is found to violate or threaten human rights.

- A monitoring mechanism must be established that ensures continuous assessment of the human rights impact of the FTA regarding trade in goods. Any threat to the right to food must lead to a revision of the problematic provisions of the agreement.

 source: Ecofair Trade Dialogue