Business Standard - 14 March 2019
Farmer unions demand scrapping of RCEP pact
About 40 farmer unions, led by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), on Thursday demanded the government walk out of the negotiations over the RCEP free trade agreement, saying it would be disastrous for the domestic agriculture sector if the pact comes through.
Any attack on the food sovereignty and farmers’ rights will be met with resistance, they warned.
The 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) bloc that includes India, China, Australia and ten ASEAN counties among others are negotiating over issues related to goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.
Addressing a press conference, BKU general secretary Yudhvir Singh said: "The RCEP will remove tariffs on 92 per cent of traded commodities and open the floodgates to cheap imports, destroying India’s already stressed farm sector."
"Countries like Australia are looking to dump their surplus produce like sugar, wheat, and dairy, and permanently conquering India’s massive markets through RCEP is a huge aim for them," he said.
The unions claimed that the RCEP will reverse the trend of India traditionally being protectionist towards the farm sector and fundamentally shift policy design towards corporate profits rather than livelihood of Indian farmers.
B Nagendra of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha said: "RCEP will manipulate our seed laws; it will strengthen the power of seed companies and their patents while restricting farmers freedom to save and exchange as they have done for centuries."
Vijay Jawandhia of Kisan Sanghatan, Sellamuthu of Tamilaga Vivasaiyagl Sangham, C.K. Janu of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGM) are among the leaders who addressed the conference.