Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy has challenged Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and the Left Democratic Front to prove their allegations on the existence of a negative list in connection with the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.
Speaking during a Meet-The-Press programme organised by the Alappuzha Press Club here on Thursday, Mr. Chandy said the allegations of Mr. Achuthanandan and the LDF that a negative list did not exist were baseless.
“If the ASEAN deal is there, there is a negative list. It’s part of the deal,” he said. Citing Mr. Achuthanandan’s statement that a reporter of the ‘Desabhimani’ had “revealed to him the non-existence of a negative list”, Mr. Chandy said the reporter should come out with the facts. The reporter had allegedly quoted a person called N. Ravi, whom the LDF says is a Secretary with the Commerce Ministry.
“There is no such secretary with the Commerce Ministry,” Mr. Chandy said.
Stating that the existence of the negative list could be proved easily, Mr. Chandy said there were a total of 489 items included in the list, out of which 303 were agriculture products. The Framework Agreement for the ASEAN FTA was actually signed in 2003 by the A.B. Vajpayee-led government. But then there was no negative list and negotiations to form such a list had taken six years. The list was approved after ‘hard bargaining’, he said.
The public would come to know who was misleading them on the ASEAN deal when it came into vogue from January 1, 2010, Mr. Chandy said, adding that Kerala should actually take up the deal as a challenge.
“We should aim at increasing productivity, focus on value addition to our products, augment technology and adopt the latest technological advances so that our economy and agriculture sectors develop with benefits to the farmers and the general public. The Centre’s help is required for that and the Centre has expressed its readiness to help. It has already set up a committee headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to study the impact on the agriculture sector,” he said.