RSS affiliate ups pressure on govt over trade plan

Updated on Dec 26, 2018 08:16 AM IST

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will organise a series of public hearings, starting next month to give industry and trade bodies a platform to air their concerns.

RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat(PTI file photo)
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat(PTI file photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will organise a series of public hearings, starting next month to give industry and trade bodies a platform to air their concerns on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in an attempt to put pressure on the union government to withdraw from negotiations to sign the agreement.

RCEP is a trade agreement between 10 Asean nations and the grouping’s six free-trade pact partners Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and India. Negotiations for the agreement are expected to end next year.

The SJM has pointed out that the pact will give nations such as Australia and New Zealand that lead in dairy exports an edge over the Indian dairy sector.

“New Zealand for instance is a major global dairy exporter accounting for 30% of global dairy exports; this makes Indian agriculture and dairy sectors totally vulnerable. It is clear these countries will ask for specific access to these markets,” said SJM Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convenor.

The SJM which has written to PM Narendra Modi to reconsider the trade agreement, has cited RCEP as a “major threat and not a major opportunity for India”.

The Centre’s decision to involve the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and the think tank, Centre for Regional Trade, to come up with the roadmap for the agreement which is likely to be signed in 2019 has not pacified the SJM.

Also read | RSS wants government to focus on temple, farmers, MSMEs

A report by these institutes is expected by January.

“There are concerns of various sectors such as steel, dairy, pharma and several other sectors about the impact that RCEP will have on their business if India signs the deal, which pushes for zero duty on a range of products. And given how large this trade bloc is, Indian business will suffer,” Mahajan said.

A response from the ministry of external affairs to SJM, indicating that the Indian negotiators are “delicately balancing various competing interests of domestic industry” too has failed to cut ice.

“Issues related to Intellectual Property Chapter, particularly pacts that constrain our farmers’ ability to produce, preserve, exchange and sell seeds need to be rejected,” Mahajan said.

Biswajit Dhar, of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU said: “Signing the RCEP would prove detrimental to India’s interests, particularly in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.”

“India will have to give preferential tariff to countries such as Australia, New Zealand and China and that would put us at a disadvantage,” Dhar said.

SJM has also pointed out to Modi that India is being asked to improve its offer to RCEP partners including the Asean, China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea. “India has major challenges from China in industrial goods. China already accounts for about half India’s total trade deficit. Even with 74% of goods offered at Zero duty (which is India’s current offer) this deficit will increase manifold and also threaten India’s manufacturing growth potential. The survival of Indian SMEs will be in question,” WHO said.

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