No FTA without parliamentary approval

16 March 2009
Article
In June 2007, the European Union (EU) and the Government of India started negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This new generation FTA covers many areas other than trade in goods viz. trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy, government procurement etc. Hence, these negotiations are going to have far reaching consequences both for the policy space of the Indian state and on the lives and livelihoods of Indian citizens. The capability of India’s domestic industry, especially small and medium enterprises, to face competition from developed and industrialized countries, the need for independent policy space for sustainable development, the impact of FTAs on farmers, workers, women and marginalized sections have been largely overlooked during the FTA negotiations. In the context of the present global economic crisis it is even more imperative that these consequences are better understood and addressed. European Parliament Members (MEPs) have put strict parameters for the FTA negotiations with India by linking human rights, labor standards and environment with trade, which has been opposed by Indian civil society till date. MEPs have also proposed strict intellectual property enforcement standards, which go beyond the WTO Agreement on TRIPS. Additionally, the present government, after the declaration of the general election, has no moral authority to conduct such a negotiation, which will have largely negative consequences for a majority of people. Importantly, negotiations will not have Parliamentary oversight. So far, five rounds of the negotiations have been completed. The sixth round will start in New Delhi from 17-19 March, 2009. Civil society groups concerned with the effects of FTAs have come together under the banner of the Forum on FTAs, a coalition of over 70 organisations - trade unions, peoples movements, NGOs and eminent individuals. In September 2008, and again in November 2008, the Forum on FTAs has called for the halt of EU-India FTA negotiations. In this urgent context, the Forum requests you to write/mail/fax the statement given below to following EU and Indian authorities. H. E. Ms. Danièle Smadja, Ambassador - Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Commission to India, Bhutan and Nepal 65, Golf Links New Delhi, 110 003 49, Sunder Nagar, New Delhi 110 003 Telephone (+91-11) 2462.92.37, 2462.92.38 Fax (+91-11) 2462.92.06 E-mail Delegation-india@ec.europa.eu Shri. Kamal Nath Minister of Commerce and Industry Room No 146, Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi 110011 Telephone : +91 11 23061008, 23061492 Fax: +91 11 23062223, 23062947, Email: cim@nic.in You can send a copy of your statement to manicandan@cec-india.org In solidarity Forum on FTAs The statement Immediate halt EU-India FTA negotiations We, express our opposition to the lack of transparency, public debate and democratic process of the ongoing negotiations of the European Union and India Free Trade Agreement (EU-India FTA). We are deeply concerned that this free trade framework will have adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts. Since the launch of the EU’s corporate driven Global Europe strategy and the subsequent commencement of the negotiations in June 2007, five rounds of formal talks have occurred without any public access to the documents explaining Indian government’s position, its commissioned studies and the negotiating texts. Even the Indian Parliament, state governments and legislatures have been kept in the dark. We understand that the negotiating agenda covers a range of issues; which would undermine the policy space of Indian state; adversely affect the livelihoods of millions; necessitate regressive amendment of laws and policies that protect the rights of farmers, workers, small and medium enterprises, among others; and, undermine the country’s environmental security. Therefore: We demand an immediate halt of EU-India negotiations until:
  • All existing negotiating positions, draft proposals and government commissioned studies are made public
  • All current proposals are debated and discussed in parliament and public fora
  • The federal process of consultation with the state governments is completed and a consensus is reached
  • Consultations are conducted with key constituents such as trade unions, farmers, women, dalit, adivasi and other peoples organizations, small and medium enterprises, cooperatives and hawkers
  • A white paper is released and discussed in parliament on the socio-economic and ecological impacts of all aspects of the EU-India FTA, especially addressing social inequality and discrimination