“Stakeholder consultation a sham” – Boycott by people’s organizations

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Forum Against FTAs | 25 July 2017

“Stakeholder consultation a sham” – Boycott by people’s organizations

Open Statement

The People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs & RCEP calls the so-called “Stakeholder Consultation” on 25th July 2017 by the RCEP chief negotiators a sham – it is neither a meaningful consultation nor includes most stakeholders. We declare that we do not recognize this as a consultation at all and we boycott the event. Some of us came to know a few days ago that this event is being held at the Novotel Convention Centre during the 19th Round talks of RCEP at Hyderabad, India. We are shocked that its organizers have not taken the basic minimum steps to do a meaningful consultation. There has been no official announcement, no attempt to invite the multitude of stakeholders and no dissemination of the chapters of the agreement and the negotiating text well in advance.

Since the RCEP negotiators have been conducting the negotiations with no transparency, the People’s Resistance Forum has organized a parallel People’s Summit against FTAs and RCEP – which included a People’s Convention on July 23rd, a large public rally on July 24th and several workshops on impacts of RCEP on various stakeholders. The several hundred participants of this summit represent major farmers’ organizations, trade unions and people’s movements. We represent peasants, agricultural workers, animal-rearers, plantation workers, women farmers, fish-workers, trade unions, industrial and mining workers, street vendors, informal workers, sex workers, insurance and bank employees, public services employees, students, IT engineers, science teachers, HIV-positive persons, women’s organizations, Dalits, adivasis, and Denotified-tribes. These are all STAKEHOLDERS of RCEP.

We also understand that a Business Consultation is being held separately for the whole day on July 25th with the Confederation of Indian Industry and East Asian Business Council – on the same day when the so-called Stakeholder Consultation is being held for two hours. This further exposes it as mere eyewash. We infer that the industry and transnational corporations are the “super-stakeholders” whom the negotiators really want to include in the process.

We firmly believe that transparency is absolutely essential for accountability. In keeping the RCEP Rounds so closed to the general public and the texts ‘secret’, the process of negotiations itself suffers from a trust deficit. Not only should the texts be made public, but they need to be stripped of the legalese and technical language and made clear in a language that can be understood by the affected people – including translation to local languages. Furthermore, authentic assessments of the impacts on various communities need to be done by the respective governments and put up for public scrutiny. The minutes of any consultations with business and industry councils should also be made public.

The Declaration of the People’s Convention puts forward the position of the people’s organizations saying No to RCEP, in view of our experiences of free trade agreements and our analysis of the impacts of corporate globalization in the past two decades. The onus is on the RCEP negotiators to engage meaningfully in this debate or face wholesale opposition.

We declare to the Indian government which is also the host of this round that the government should not go ahead with these negotiations without discussion in the Parliament, with state governments, and meaningful, transparent, widespread consultations. The negotiation process so far is a mockery of democracy in a nation that prides itself as the world’s biggest democracy.

We also assert that every RCEP Participating Country holds the moral responsibility to open up the ‘secret’ talks, and we stand in solidarity with people’s organizations in all RCEP nations. We understand and respect that some organizations from India and other nations are participating in the consultation in order to use the meagre spaces available to voice concerns of the people. Meanwhile, we would like the Chair of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) to officially record our boycott of this Round.

About the Forum:
The People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs and RCEP represents a wide range of people’s groups and mass movements from across India that stands for development justice. The members include (not exhaustive list):

Peasant Organizations:
Telangana Rythu JAC
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha
All India Kisan Sabha
All India Kisan Sabha (Ajoy Bhavan)
Jai Kisan Andolan
Rythu Swarajya Vedika
Tamil Nadu Women Farmers Association
Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch
Telangana Raitu Sangham
Telangana Raitanga Samiti
Telangana Rashtra Raitu Sangham
Telangana Agricultural Workers Union
AP Agricultural Workers Union (APVVU)

Unions:
Public Services International (PSI)
Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)
All India National Life Insurance Employees Federation
Indian National Municipal & Local Bodies Employees federation
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Telangana
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Telangana
National Hawkers Federation
Telangana Hawkers Federation
Telangana Medical Sales Representatives Union
Dalit Women Workers Union

People’s Organisations:
National Alliance of Dalit Organisations (NADO)
National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM)
Telangana Joint Action Committee
Jana Vigyana Vedika (part of All India People’s Science Network)
Telangana Vidyavantula Vedika
Telangana Praja Front
Forum against FTAs

Contact:
[email protected]
Kirankumar Vissa, Co-convenor, People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs and RCEP. Phone: +91-9701705743; Email: [email protected]