HYDERABAD: As the 19th council meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), a free trade agreement (FTA) between member-countries of ASEAN and six other countries including India, began here on Monday, a coalition of people’s organisations staged a protest demonstration at People’s Plaza on the Necklace Road.
Around 30 HIV positive people, who came down from different states, were taken into preventive custody as they were shouting slogans outside Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre, near Hitec City, where 700 members from 16 countries are holding deliberations. They were protesting against the harmful provisions in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Agreement, which will limit their access to affordable medicines.
Domestic workers, farmers and people from related sectors, hawkers, and also people living with HIV came together to demand that the closed-door negotiations are made public as this free trade agreement (FTA) would impact all the indigenous communities in the country.
While the RCEP delegates stated that first day’s negotiations on Monday would involve stakeholders from civil society, not many of them were informed, claimed the protesters. “It is the 19th negotiation meeting, not the first or the second, that there is no draft yet on the clauses,” said Yogendra Yadav, a former member of Swaraj Abhiyan. He was in the city representing All India Kisan Sangharsh Samithi, an umbrella body of those in the agricultural sector.
He said they gathered with this apprehension and fear that these secret negotiations would do more harm than good. “This agreement is not about freedom but a way to monopolise trade and protect foreign investors,” he alleged. Certain clauses like reduction of import duty on various products to zero, full investor protection by the Indian government, handing over seed patents to global investors will not only worsen the agrarian crisis but will also have a ripple effect on the unorganised sector.
Foreign nationals representing those living with HIV raised their voice against affordable generic medicines that will become inaccessible once RCEP agreement is signed by India. “There should be an informed public debate on this and it should be taken up in Parliament,” said Kiran Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, who initiated the People’s Resistance Forum against RCEP and FTAs.
Groups against FTA to boycott civil society consultation
Hyderabad: On being confronted with the demands from farmer unions and the activists fighting for their rights in Telangana and across the country to make all the proposals tabled in the 19th council meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) public, the delegates have agreed to hold a civil society consultation on Wednesday. However, calling the scheduled two-hour consultation a sham, several groups protesting the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between member countries of the ASEAN and six other countries have decided to boycott it.