Kerala govt wants Centre to consult it on RCEP treaty

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Press Trust of India | 10 May 2017

Kerala govt wants Centre to consult it on RCEP treaty

The CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala today wanted the Centre to consult it before signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, saying it would have adverse impact on the agriculture sector in the state.

Replying to a notice for an adjournment motion over the agrarian crisis in the state Assembly, Agriculture Minister V S Sunilkumar said the RCEP agreement would result in the import of cash crops, milk products, rubber and tea without duty.

"This is going to aggravate the crisis already faced by the farming sector due to the adverse impact of previous treaties like WTO and ASEAN," he said.

Stating that the LDF government had always taken a very strong stand against the RCEP and other similar agreements, the minister said it would take up the matter with the Centre again.

"The Centre should consult with the state before signing the agreement," he said.

Referring to the reports on the move to shift the Rubber Board headquarters from Kerala, he said the state government cannot accept this at any cost.

"Kerala produces 90 per cent of the total rubber production in the country.. We have already asked the Centre that the Rubber Board office should not be shifted," the minister said.

Alleging that the Centre was showing "step-motherly" attitude towards the state on matters related to agriculture, Sunilkumar said the state would give a detailed letter to the union government explaining its position on the issue.

On the Opposition charge that the state government had shown lukewarm response to the problems faced by rubber growers, he said a total of Rs 704 crore had been released under the ’production incentive’ scheme in last one year.

Leader of Opposition in Kerala assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said state farmers are facing serious crisis due to various issues and sought immediate intervention of both state and central governments.

As an immediate relief, he said, agriculture loans upto Rs two lakh should be written off and a permanent price stabilisation fund should be launched for all agricultural crops in the state.

Echoing the views of agricultural minister on RCEP, Chennithala said the agreement would cause adverse impact in the agrarian sector of Kerala and the Centre should show readiness to consult with the state before implementing it.

The Opposition later staged a walkout after Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan rejected their demand for a debate on the alleged crisis faced by farmers in the state.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the six states (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand), with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements.