The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday expressed concern over the “veil of secrecy” around negotiations for the India-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and re-emphasised that the Manmohan Singh government did not have the mandate to conduct parleys on it without discussion within the country.

Referring to the EU summit in Brussels, attended by a high-level Indian delegation led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Polit Bureau said in a statement here that in the case of the India-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) FTA, the government in the past signed agreements that affect large sections of the country's people adversely without making any efforts to consult Parliament, other political parties or State governments.

“The CPI(M) reiterates firmly that the government does not have the mandate to negotiate the India-EU FTA without first having consulted diverse sections within India and discussed in Parliament,” the statement said.

The CPI(M) said there were several areas of concerns in the texts being negotiated for the FTA, and that the EU was demanding measures that go beyond the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that would affect the viability of low-priced generic medicines in the country.

The party said the EU is also seeking accelerated access to Indian markets, particularly dairy and agri-business, that could jeopardise the livelihood of farmers, fisherfolk and small businesses.

Similarly, investment and financial services obligations being demanded by the EU would have detrimental effects on domestic industry, would result in giant retail chains pushing out small vendors and trades people, compromise the government's ability to direct credit into required areas and destabilise the country's financial sector at a time when the world was going through its worst financial crisis in recent memory.

The EU also made strong demands to open up the system of government procurement, which if accepted, would further jeopardise the country's faltering public distribution system.

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