SJM asks In­dia to quit RCEP talks, says pact will hurt farm, dairy sec­tors

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS -

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.

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