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Civil Society Leaders Demand Transparency in FTA Negotiations

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New Delhi: 130+ organisations and civil society leaders expressed concerns at the lack of transparency and non-inclusive consultation processes adopted by the Union Government in the negotiations for entering into free trade, comprehensive economic partnership or investment related agreements. In an open letter to the Govt of India on Tuesday, they referred to the ongoing negotiations with several countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Israel and the European Union.

Prominent among the signatories are, Jawhar Sircar, Member of Parliament; Shailesh Gandhi, former Chief Information Commissioner; Madhu Bhaduri, former Ambassador; Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan; Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women; Teesta Setalvad, Social Activist; Gautam Mody, NTUI; Viju Krishnan, All India Kisan Sabha; Prafulla Samantara and Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements; Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Navsharan Singh, Researcher; Kavita Krishnan, Feminist activist and author; Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group; Cedric Prakash, Human Rights and Peace Activist; Devaki Jain, Feminist Economist; Dinesh Abrol, former Prof JNU; M.G. Devasahaym, former civil servant and Sharad Behar, former Chief Secretary, Govt of Madhya Pradesh and several others.

The open letter is significant in the context of the fifth round of negotiations between India and the European Union, currently ongoing in Brussels. India and the 27-nation bloc resumed negotiations in June 2022, after a gap of over eight years on the proposed agreements on trade and investments. The EU is India’s third largest trading partner, accounting for €88 billion worth of trade in goods in 2021 or 10.8% of total Indian trade. India is the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, accounting for 2.1% of EU total trade in goods.

Looking at the possible fallout of a non-transparent process, the open letter said, “This non-consultative and exclusionary process signals a disregard for the questions of human rights, social justice and environmental impacts that wider stakeholder involvement would put on the table.” It also said that the Parliament must therefore deliberate on the implications of the proposed legislative changes for the lives, livelihoods and well-being of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable groups.


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