Expresses concern at negotiations having proceeded without any scrutiny

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has expressed deep concern about negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the European Union and India proceeding without any Parliament or other democratic institutions scrutinising it.

“We understand that there is a move to conclude the negotiations by the middle of April,” a statement issued by the party said here on Friday.

The free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union is the most ambitious and comprehensive of all the FTAs that India is negotiating or has signed.

The agreement is likely to worsen the already burgeoning current account deficit and trade deficit, the CPI (M) believes.

Evidence from trade agreements that India has already entered clearly indicate that they further worsen the country’s trade deficit, it said, pointing out how after an FTA with Singapore a trade surplus was rapidly converted into a deficit.

“The intellectual property, investment and government procurement chapters of the agreement will have a negative impact on virtually every area of economic activity — including agriculture, industry and services.

“Higher standards of intellectual property protection will have a negative impact on health services; strong investor protection mechanisms will undermine the government’s ability to regulate industrial and financial corporations in national interest; and the opening up of government procurement to foreign firms will undermine even the minimal social protection measures in place, such as the public distribution system.

“The agriculture sector is likely to be particularly affected by the dumping of subsidised agricultural products from the EU,” the party said.

Pointing out that several sections representing different sectors of the economy have already articulated serious concerns about the impact of the FTA, the CPI (M) said the automobile industry was likely to be seriously affected.

Amul, India’s largest milk cooperative, has similarly expressed concern regarding the impact of subsidised dairy imports from the EU that can jeopardise the livelihood of 80 million farmers in India.

Dismissing claims that the FTA will open up additional markets for Indian exporters as unsubstantiated and saying they would not compensate for the expected surge in imports, the party said the EU could be expected to continue with its strategic use of subsidies and non-tariff barriers to prevent the entry of Indian exports. The CPI (M) is particularly concerned that the entire negotiating process has been non-transparent, with a total lack of public consultation with affected sections, parliamentary oversight, or the involvement of State governments.

Despite repeated expressions of concern by political parties, the government has moved forward with the process, shunning even a modicum of effort to arrive at a political consensus on the issue, it said.

The CPI (M) demanded that the government should not conclude the negotiations at this stage and instead wait for the Standing Committee’s report.

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