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Editorial: Momentum Builds Against Government Signing RCEP Deal

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Port Wings, 30 October 2019:

Slowly and steadily, momentum is building against the Union Government that is mulling signing the China-promoted Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal, which will eventually result in liberalizing Chinese imports to Indian market.

And there were widespread protests by hundreds of farmers across the country against the deal. However, the protests got drowned to government’s headline management strategy, as this would become another rallying point for opposition political parties and even the trading community that could be the victim of this reportedly lop-sided deal aimed in helping China securing unrestricted market access in leading Asian countries.

The main opposition party, the Indian National Congress opposed India signing the agreement, saying it will be the “third big jolt” to the Indian economy after demonetization and GST and will result in liberalizing Chinese imports to Indian market.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that “After demonetisation and GST, it will be the third big jolt to our economy when the Prime Minister goes to Bangkok the next month and expresses India’s agreement to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”

All the key agricultural States such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Haryana witnessed protests by farmers, who demanded India’s exit from the economic pact.

As the negotiations enter the crucial final leg in next few days, the farmers demand the Union Government not to sign the RCEP agreement. In case they go ahead, the Government should keep agriculture out of the RCEP purview.

Farmers’ unions, intellectuals, and non-governmental organisations working in the agricultural and allied fields have formed Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) to organise and coordinate the protests.

In a common memorandum to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, with copies marked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the farmers related the implications of India go ahead with the RCEP negotiations.

“There are no benefits apparent at all for Indian farmers while on the other hand, they will be severely affected by dumping of heavily subsidised products, with nearly no tariff barriers possible and no other protection mechanisms either,” the memorandum said.

According to a media report in leading business daily, the RCEP will permanently bring down import duties on most agricultural commodities to zero. Many countries are looking to dump their agricultural produce in India. Seed companies will get more powers to protect their Intellectual Property Rights, and farmers would be criminalised when they save and exchange seeds.

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