The Economic Times - 04 August 2020
RSS-affiliate SJM opposes India-US trade deal in present form
By Kirtika Sunaja
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch has opposed the proposed India-US trade deal in its current form stating that New Delhi can’t meet Washington’s asks on e-commerce, data flows, dairy and patents. “How can we allow what the US expects on e-commerce, free flow of data, intellectual property rights, lifting the price caps on medical devices? I don’t see the Indo-US trade deal to see the light of day in its present form…We should not engage,” said Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convenor, Swadeshi Jagran Manch at a webinar organised by civil society and farmer organisations on Tuesday.
India has said it is close to sign a “quick trade deal” with the US and that the two sides should also look at a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with 50 to 100 products and services before moving to a free trade agreement (FTA) in the long term. Explaining that e-commerce, IPR, agriculture, dairy, price caps on medical devices and duty cuts on Harley Davidson motorbikes is on the menu, he said it was because of the concerns raised by India’s dairy and agriculture sectors that the country came out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement last year.
“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the US, there were many things on the menu but he only had water,” Mahajan said. “I am hopeful that the government will not go ahead. We, at SJM, are not against international trade agreements but they should be in the best interest of the country. How can we allow (section) 3 (d) and 3(j) (of Patents Act) go be abolished?,” Mahajan said. Section 3 (d) of its patent Act denies patents on items that are not significantly different from their older versions. As per section 3 (j), plants and animals and their parts are not covered under inventions in the Act.
“We have raised the issue of non-veg milk and no one has a legislation as strong as India’s Patent Act. We can’t think of joining UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants),” he said. Mahajan said the country is aware of its strengths and strategic position. “It is not India which needs the US but the US which needs India in strategic deals. Both need each other to deal with China,” he said. On the issue of restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to India, Mahajan said there is pressure on the Donald Trump administration to restore it because after GSP was withdrawn, India’s exports in those lines to the US increased.
“We should keep on bringing these issues because there is lack of transparency in international trade deals and negotiations,” he said, adding that in some cases, there is a problem with Indian bureaucracy which favours foreign partners but this is not government’s policy or the declared intent of the government. “When we enter and exit from a deal, the fault is not with the political leadership,” he said.