The State leadership should work together with the Centre to make maximum use of the provisions of the India- ASEAN free trade agreement, instead of outright rejection of the Agreement, veteran diplomat and former Indian Representative to United Nations, T P Sreenivasan has said.

Speaking on the India-ASEAN FTA at the seminar organised by the Travancore Management Association (TRAMA), here today, Mr. Sreenivasan said that looking at the Agreement from the political, international relations and trade perspectives, it was a necessary step for India which could be termed a landmark event.

However, it needs to be admitted that it puts sections of Kerala society at a disadvantage and as such could be termed a ‘necessary evil’.

The challenge before the Kerala leadership is to accept the Agreement and work towards reducing the grievances, joining hands with the Centre. One way of coping with the negative impact of the provisions

of the FTA would be to get adequate compensation for the aggrieved sections of the society. Another would be to increase productivity in the agriculture sector. Increase in productivity of agriculture produces would necessitate structural changes. However, these changes have nothing to do with the FTA as it was necessary to empower the farming community in the globalised order, he said.

Mr Sreenivasan pointed out that two components of the India-ASEAN trade relations are yet to be finalised. One, the ASEAN has not published its own schedule of products and two, the FTA on service sector is yet to be concluded. By focusing on these areas, there was still scope for finding ways to make the Agreement useful for the people of Kerala, he said.

The veteran diplomat stressed the need to incorporate more regional inputs in international policy perspectives and pointed out that most of these policies tend to be more Delhi centric.

The need of the hour was to empower the negotiators with more inputs to protect the interests of Kerala.

Sajan Peter, chairman Rubber Board, said Indian natural rubber (NR) sector was capable of facing any challenge from any country. However, NR has been put under exclusion list after taking into account that 92 per cent of NR export originated from the ASEAN countries.

Natural rubber had during the past five decades increased in productivity and today tops the world and it has also increased in area of cultivation. However, agriculture produces like paddy, coconut and pepper give a different picture. The main reason for the difference was that integration of the activities under the Rubber Board happened for the NR while other sectors lacked the facility.

Mathew Jacob, president, TRAMA, chaired the session. M K Balagopalan Nair welcomed the gathering.


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