NEW DELHI: Even while Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reached Singapore to take part in the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP), the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch cautioned him form hurrying into such trade pact.
Reminding the approaching elections in 2019, the RSS affiliate warned the Prime Minister that the RCEP could jeopardize the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which employ a large number of the people in the country. "This letter has reference to RCEP Ministerial Summit which you are joining in Singapore. On the outset, we wish to caution you that the RCEP presents a major threat and not an opportunity for India," the SJM co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan stated in the letter to the Prime Minister.
The SJM, while noting that India is reportedly being asked to improve its offer to RCEP partners, including the ASEAN, China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea, stressed on adverse trade balance with Beijing.
"India has major challenges from China in industrial goods. China already accounts for about half India's total trade deficit. Even with 74 per cent of goods offered at zero duty, which is India's current offer, the prevailing deficit will increase manifold and also threaten India's manufacturing growth potential," said Majahan in the letter, while adding that the survival of Indian SMEs would be in a jeopardy. The SJM also stated that Indian agriculture and dairy sectors would be totally vulnerable with competition from Australia and New Zealand.
"It is clear these countries will ask for specific access to these markets. After India-ASEAN FTA, our deficit with ASEAN, especially in plantation products has already increased and destroyed several plantations in the southern parts of the country, while making workers unemployed," rued Mahajan. The SJM further stated in the letter that the RCEP is not in the interest of the people of the country. "There is no sector, no constituency, or no region in India that will benefit from the RCEP. Given the impending elections in 2019, it will be a disaster for the government to sign or even makes commitments giving concessions on specific chapters," warned Mahajan.