RSS affiliate plans protests across India against RCEP
A prominent affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) announced on Thursday that it will hold nationwide protests to pressure the government into not joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN member states and their six free-trade agreement partners.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) opposes RCEP over concerns that the country could be flooded with cheaper Chinese imports once the deal is done.
District-level protests have started and it will continue till October 20, SJM’s national co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan said in a statement that claimed RCEP would “effectively function as a free trade agreement (FTA) with China”.
“The trade deficit with China is at an alarming level of $54 billion. It is a well-known fact that the non-tariff barriers are the main cause of denial of market access to China. There is nothing in RCEP to effectively discipline the non- tariff barriers (such as Mutual Recognition Agreements) and its exclusive focus on tariff reduction would be bringing an end to Indian manufacturing,” Mahajan said.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat suggested caution in trade relations with other countries during his annual Vijayadashami address at Nagpur on Tuesday.
Protests and opposition against joining RCEP have built up in the run up to a crucial two-day Bangkok ministerial starting from Friday.
This ministerial round is expected to be the last major round of negotiation before conclusion of the trade deal in November 2019. According to officials aware of the process, the Bangkok meeting will also finalise matters related to investment, e-commerce, rules of origin and trade remedies, the persons said.
This person and another government official, who too asked not to be named, said India is likely to insist on adequate safeguards against possible dumping from RCEP member countries, particularly China.
Union minister of commerce and industry and railways Piyush Goyal is scheduled to attend the 9th RCEP intersessional ministerial meeting.
HT reported on October 9 that days before the crucial ministerial, some ministers, leaders of the BJP, and the party’s ideological mentor RSS have cautioned the Union government against signing the treaty without adequate safeguards to protect the interests of Indian industry, agriculture and dairy farmers.
The issue is also likely to come up at the meeting of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the upcoming India-China Summit in Mamalapuram, the persons said.
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