The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the State is politicising the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said.
Speaking to presspersons after distributing journalism awards instituted by the Trivandum Press Club here on Monday, Mr. Antony said it was unfortunate that the government was misleading the public and the farmers saying that there was ‘no negative list.’ As many as 489 items figured in the negative list, and the list would also come into effect once the agreement was implemented in January 2010. Tea and coffee figured in the highly sensitive list. “The country and Kerala were to benefit as the exports were likely to go up. There was no need for any apprehension in this regard,” he said.
Mr. Antony, who is a member of the Group of Ministers headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee to look into the apprehension of the States, said the Union Commerce Minister had in August itself written to the Chief Minister saying that the State’s interest would be protected.
Mr. Antony wondered why the State government was criticising the Centre even after getting the letter from the Commerce Minister. “It is unfortunate that the Kerala government is criticising the Centre in this regard,” he said.
‘UDF chances bright’
Asked about the UDF chances of winning the forthcoming byelections in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Kannur Assembly constituencies, Mr. Antony said the people would give a ‘fitting reply’ to the State government and the LDF. “It will be a repeat of the verdict of Lok Sabha elections. It will be a hat-trick for the UDF,” he said.
Mr. Antony said the byelections would be a smooth affair. To a query on the attempt by K. Muraleedharan to come back to the Congress, the Union Minister said a consensus had to emerge in the State Congress unit first. Mr. Antony declined to comment on the law and order situation in the State.