With the recent round of Assembly polls giving a breather to the Congress, the party now seems to have realised the importance of pinning down the government over livelihood and larger economic issues rather than engage on Hindutva and nationalism. It is in context that the opposition to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which the Congress-led UPA had itself proposed should be seen.
Beginning November 5, the Congress Party has decided to start a country-wide agitation on the state of the economy primarily under four heads — the growing unemployment, agrarian distress, economic downturn and the RCEP.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 member states of the Asean — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam — and its six FTA partners, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who is one of the members of the newly-set up policy study group of the Congress, has listed RCEP as the third big jolt to the economy after demonetisation and the GST.
Claiming that it would liberalise Chinese trade in the Indian market, he said: “RCEP will result in liberalisation of imports from China. We do not know what was discussed in Wuhan or Mahabalipuram but we can see the results, there will be liberalisation in imports from China. ‘Made in India’ is not mentioned now. It’ll encourage ‘Made in China’,” he said.
Alleging that the government was interested in the RCEP due to mismanagement of the economy, he said it would severely impact the agrarian sector, especially the diary industry.
When questioned as to the reason for the Opposition to the free trade agreement, when the UPA had also been interested in signing it, the party maintained that the economic situation had been very difference then.
Disagreeing that his party was making a U-turn, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that when the UPA government negotiated free trade agreements, the economy was booming. “We did not have the economic crisis that we are having today. There was an investment boom, exports were growing. Today, exports are falling, investment is falling, so, the economic context was totally different when UPA negotiated free trade agreements.”
The Congress has also decided to build a broad political platform on the matter with other Opposition parties and has called a meeting on November 4, the very day RCEP is supposed to be signed.
Apart from this, the party would hold a massive protest in the national capital as a culmination of the country-wide protests after November 15.
It has also decided to hold press conferences across the country to addressed by top leaders to make people aware of the issue....