Bengaluru: For two days early this week, farmers' representatives from the south Indian states met in Bengaluru and discussed what they saw as the threat posed to economic sovereignty by the proposed mega free trade agreement - Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a Chinese initiative that India is part of.
The groups that were part of the consultation at Indian Social Institute questioned why the Indian Government was agreeing to be part of the RCEP, which allows foreign investors to sue host governments, restrict policy space for governments, threatens access to life-saving medicines and puts seed sovereignty at stake. The meeting was organised by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), La Via Campesina, IT for Change, Forum against FTAs and other local groups on April 2 and 3.
"Farmers in India have already borne the brunt of existing FTAs (Free Trade Agreement) such as the ASEAN-India FTA and India-Sri Lanka FTA. Cheap imports of palm oil, pepper and tea have devastated lives of peasants across South India. The RCEP will further aggravate this crisis. We reject the RCEP outright," said K.T. Gangadhar, president, KRRS.
The members of the proposed RCEP led by China include India, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Other countries in South Asia and South East Asia are likely to join. The RCEP covers 50 per cent of the world's population and 29 per cent of the world's GDP. The Indian government will host the 19th round of RCEP negotiations in Hyderabad in July.