SJM asks India to quit RCEP talks, says pact will hurt farm, dairy sectors
The RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has called for a clear decision by the Centre to quit the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations as the pact will worsen India’s trade deficit and hurt the vulnerable agriculture and dairy sectors.
“Of the 15 partner countries in the RCEP, India already has free trade agreements covering 12 countries. Since these pacts were signed, our trade deficit has increased with all, including the ASEAN, South Korea and Japan. If we extend this to New Zealand, Australia and China (as part of the RCEP), one can imagine what will happen to the overall trade deficit,” said Ashwani Mahajan, co-convener, SJM, in a discussion on RCEP and India organised here on Thursday.
RCEP member countries account for $104 billion of India’s total annual trade deficit of $162 billion, Mahajan pointed out.
India is under a lot of pressure to provide market access for goods, pointed out Bipin Menon, Director, Commerce Ministry, but it is trying to be as conservative as possible in its negotiations with China and is taking into account all domestic sensitivities. “It is a very big agreement. We have to also see if it will hurt our exporters if we are not part of the agreement. We need to collectively decide how to move forward,” he said.
Menon said RCEP members were working towards concluding the pact by November this year. Since this could be the biggest regional free trade pact, India needs to have a cautious and balanced approach, he said.
Growing trade deficit
According to JNU Professor Biswajit Dhar, the government has to try and understand why the country had not benefited from the free trade pacts signed so far. “We have to ask why can’t we get increased market access in countries with which we have free trade pacts while our imports are increasing sharply resulting in a galloping trade deficit. The answer is that our industry is failing to stand up to competition,” he said.