The State committee of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has expressed its protest against India signing the Free Trade Agreement with the ASEAN countries to the "detriment of Kerala’s agriculture and fisheries sectors."

In a resolution passed at its meeting here on Friday, the LDF State committee said that the ASEAN countries were large-scale producers of the commodities that sustained Kerala’s agricultural economy.

Once the agreement became operational, commodities such as coconut, rubber, pepper, cardamom, tea and coffee would flow duty-free into India. Since cost of production was low and productivity high in these countries, the Kerala products would lose out in the Indian market.

Farmer suicides

The resolution said that the globalisation policies followed by the Union government had led to a large number of farmer suicides in the country.

It required strong interventions from the LDF government to check this trend in Kerala. The new pact would revert the State to the time when total desperation reigned over its farm sector.

The traditional fisheries sector too would take a blow, the resolution said. The marine products of the ASEAN countries were more or less the same as Kerala’s.

Foreign fishing trawlers’ operation off the Indian coast had already depleted the fisheries resources in the region. Duty-free imports from the ASEAN countries would push out the State’s marine products also out of the domestic market, the LDF said.

‘Protected list’

Those supporting the pact were maintaining that there would be a ‘protected list’ of commodities that would not be allowed into the country duty-free.

However, there was lack of clarity about such a list. The Centre had not bothered to clear the State’s apprehensions in this regard.

Briefing the media after the meeting, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan noted that agriculture was essentially a State subject under the Constitution. Free trade agreements of far-reaching consequences to some of the States were being signed by the Union government without even consulting the States.

This tendency on the part of the Centre would destroy the federal system in the country, he said.

Keywords: KeralaASEAN