‘India-US FTA not possible as India can’t give what US wants’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 04, 2020

Sops in farming, medical equipment pricing, e-comme can’t be extended, says SJM’s Mahajan

An India-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is not likely to see the light of day in the present form going by the demands made in crucial areas of agriculture, medical equipment, intellectual property and e-commerce, Aswhani Mahajan, National Co-Convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, has said.

“What the US wants from India, the country is not in a position to give...How can we allow the US to have free access to the Indian agriculture market? How can we give in to their demand on lifting cap (on pricing) on medical equipment?” he said speaking at a seminar on ‘Trade Deal between India and the US’ organised by Third World Network and IT for Change on Tuesday.

What face can the Indian government show to its people if it gives in to the US demands of free flow of data when already the country has taken a firm position on data localisation, Mahajan added.

On the US demand of abolition of Section 3 d of the Indian Patents Act which is a tool against attempts made by pharmaceutical companies to evergreen their patents through cosmetic changes, Mahajan said that it could not be allowed.

“There is so much talk of an India US FTA...I am very hopeful that this government will not go ahead with the kind of templates that the US follows. SJM is not against international trade agreements. But it should be in the best interest of the country,” he said.

‘Who wants a quick deal?’

Recently, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that while India-US worked on an FTA which may take years, the two could also look at an early harvest Preferential Trade Agreement covering 50-100 products. He said that such a quick trade deal could be concluded after just a few phone calls.

“It is very important to see who is actually interested in this quick free trade deal,” said Afsar Jafri from GRAIN, an international NGO that supports small farmers. Jafri said that farmers were a big vote bank for Trump and he may be looking for providing them market access in India just before the US Presidential elections to win their confidence.

Last year, SJM played a key role in convincing the BJP-led government to exit the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement between 16 countries including the 10-member ASEAN, India and China.

SJM, together with farmers’ and dairy organisations across the country, as well as industry groups, strongly protested against the proposed agreement that would have led to India opening its agricultural and goods markets to all RCEP members, including China. The SJM argued that such a pact would completely disrupt India’s agriculture and dairy sectors and kill its micro, small and medium enterprises.

Mahajan pointed out that despite Washington’s insistence on an FTA with India for the last many months, New Delhi had held back and not given in to unjustified demands, which reflected the government’s strong resolve to withstand pressure.

Published on August 04, 2020

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