Economy

'Halt India-EU FTA talks immediately'

Ska Keller, a Green member of the European Parliament, has warned that the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between India and European Union will have serious consequences for the Indian people.

In a statement issued after the conclusion of her visit to India last week where she met representatives of the government, the opposition, think-tanks and NGOs about the advantages and disadvantages for India concerning the FTA with the EU, Ska Keller said regulations on intellectual property rights might endanger the production of generics and thereby block the access to medical treatment for millions of poor people in India and other countries.

“I therefore support the campaign of ‘medicine sans frontiers’ (doctors without borders) Europe! Hands off our medicine.’’ “I am also concerned that Indian and farmers could stand affected negatively. Moreover, there are severe concerns that the deal with the EU could force small shops to close or wholesome industries to close down due to competition from Europe,’’ she added.

She said critics are of the view that the chapter of the agreement on regulation for investment might open the possibility for companies to sue India or European states for environmental legislation. “I deeply regret that at the moment the negative consequences cannot be judged yet as the public has no access to the negotiations,’’ she stated.

On the other hand, the benefits of the FTA cannot be foreseen yet. “Only one of the Indian partners stated at all and clearly, which advantages India hopes to achieve from the FTA: more liberal visa regulation and technology transfer.

“But it is doubtful whether those advantages will be achieved through an FTA with the EU as it is firstly the member states and not the European Commission to decide about visa regulations. Secondly, technology transfer can only happen, if European companies produce and apply their technologies in India and if they did, small enterprises would not benefit. Given the serious concerns and the uncertainties about the benefits, the FTA is a threat to poverty eradication and development of the Indian people,’’ she remarked.

On the other hand, EU’s official advisory body has spoken out about the flawed negotiating process in the EU-India free trade agreement (FTA). Madi Sharma, a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which was set up to advise the EU institutions, described the talks as “wrong and non-transparent.’’

Ms. Sharma, who is based in the U.K., called for the suspension of the negotiations until studies had been carried out to ‘assess the likely economic and social risks of the FTA on Indian society.’ “Until now, the talks have been guided by a study that fails to take the FTA’s impact on the informal sector into account – even though over 90 per cent of the Indian economy is informal, so made up of people like street vendors and domestic workers,’’ she said in a statement.

Ms. Sharma warned of potential human rights violations as a result of structural changes in India’s informal sector, with women being disproportionately at risk.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 1:48:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/Halt-India-EU-FTA-talks-immediately/article14692881.ece

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