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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


                                                     18 January 2011, Thiruvanathapuram  


Thiruvanathapuram: A southern India level seminar was organised on 17 January 2011 in the city on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Groups from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and New Delhi participated in the one day meet organised jointly by Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozilali Federation (KSMTF), South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM) and two Delhi based groups Focus on the Global South and Madhyam. The meeting was called in the context where the Government of India is implementing and negotiating more than 30 FTAs in an undemocratic and non-transparent manner.  

‘India’s enthusiasm for FTAs, in the context of the current global crises when countries are eschewing trade liberalisation and concentrating on reviving domestic economies and creating jobs, defies economic logic’ said K N Harilal of the Centre for Development Studies and member of the Kerala State Planning Board. Harilal further added that ‘with the abrogation of the right to raise tariffs and the right to intervene in the market on crucial issues such as finance, agriculture and fisheries the Central Government is fundamentally undermining the Indian constitution’.

Primary tropical commodity prices are prone to sharp price fluctuations and tend to decline in the long term. Those that believe that the current steep rise in rubber prices in Kerala is because of the ASEAN-India FTA and will continue to rise do not understand basics of commodity trade’, concluded Harilal.

Economist and Author Kavaljit Singh from the Delhi based Public Interest Research Centre said that ‘in a situation with some 500 million citizens without a bank account and 292 under-banked districts, de-regulating banking rules to facilitate the entry of more European banks, would undermine the public banking sector and financial inclusion. Under the EU-India FTA the crisis ridden European banking industry is demanding that India open up to products such as derivatives which ironically led to the Euro zone crisis’.

Nandini from the Karnataka Rajya Ryota Sangha (KRRS) said farmers from Karnataka had joined with farmers and fishworkers from Kerala in blockading the Mangalore port in November 2009 against the ASEAN-India FTA. ‘We will have to resort to such direct actions if the Government does not listen to our demands to stop free trade in agriculture’ she said.

Usha Jayakumar from Thanal said that the possibility of value addition for agriculture products is negated through the ASEAN-India FTA. ‘If one examines the tariff schedule of the agreement, while some primary commodities such as coconut are on the sensitive list, semi and processed forms of the same product are not’.

Lawyer Kajal Bhardwaj from New Delhi said that European pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer were lobbying for patent rights for life-saving drugs through the EU-India FTA and this would ensure that many medicines are out of reach of common people.

T Peter of KSMTF said that the fight against FTAs was not a sectoral fight of the fishworkers. Government employees, farmers, workers from small and medium enterprises, dalits and adivasis need to come together to counter this anti-people pro corporate agenda of the Government. ‘Only such a broad people’s alliance can win this fight’. He further added that KSMTF would reach out to other groups to have more such regional meetings in South India in the immediate future.

Other groups that participated include Kerala Coconut Farmers Association, South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS) and National Fishworkers Forum. (Ends)
For more information contact T Peter: + 91-9447429243.