HYDERABAD: While Hyderabad is preparing to host 16 countries this month end for the 19th negotiation meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement that will lift all barriers turning India into a destination for foreign investment, it is likely to impact the indigenous communities leaving them with little hope to thrive.
Simply put, the recent episodes of red gram farmers in Telangana agitating over not being able to recover costs after the FCI stopped procuring the produce or chilli farmers inability to sell their produce for lack of demand will see a repeat.
Certain clauses laid down in the RCEP agreement, though still negotiable and have to be agreed upon by the participating countries, will impact farmers and milk producers adversely.
“That is why we are resisting,” said Kiran Vissa of Raithu Swarajya Vedika, one of the organisations which came together to form People’s Resistance Forum against RCEP and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
One of the clauses of RCEP is the reduction of import duty to zero. “Indian farmers are already suffering as they are not getting a fair price for their produce. Cheaper imports will reduce the demand much further, leading to a drop in price. Also, India, unlike many other countries, does not offer high rate of subsidies to farmers. We cannot undersell,” explained Kiran.
Signing the agreement implies that the governments will have to change their laws accordingly. In this case, to the advantage of investors.
“The same is with the milk industry and if the import duty on milk products is brought down to zero, it will crush local milk business,” said Asha Latha from Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch.
The biggest threat, a number of FCEP clauses, is that which provides investor protection where investing foreign companies will be provided protection by the Indian government.