TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct08/03)
6 October 2008
Third World Network

Trade: NGOs call for halt to EU-India FTA talks
Published in SUNS #6560 dated 3 October 2008 

Geneva, 2 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- Some seventy-five Indian trade unions, peoples' movements and civil society organizations have called for an immediate halt to European Union-India Free Trade Agreement negotiations, expressing deep concern that an EU-India FTA will have adverse socioeconomic and environmental impacts on the country.

The groups also expressed their opposition to what they viewed as the lack of transparency, public debate and democratic process of the ongoing negotiations of the EU-India FTA.

These concerns were highlighted by the groups in a statement issued shortly before delegations gathered for the EU-India Summit in Marseilles on September 29-30.

The statement was endorsed by groups that included the New Trade Union Initiative; All India United Trade Union Congress; National Forum for Forest People and Forest Workers; National Forum for Fish Workers; Public Services International; Health Action International, People's Health Movement; Focus on the Global South; Action Aid; National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights; Third World Network; Centre for Social Initiative; and South Central India Development Alternatives.

In their statement, the groups said that since the launch of the EU's corporate driven Global Europe strategy and the subsequent commencement of the negotiations in June 2007, five rounds of formal talks have occurred without any public access to the Indian government position, commissioned studies and negotiating texts. Even the Indian Parliament, state governments and legislatures have been kept in the dark.

The Indian Commerce Ministry's consultations have been limited to large corporate and commercial interests within India and have completely side-stepped those who are likely to be adversely affected by a legally binding treaty, the statement added.

The groups demanded an immediate halt to the EU-India FTA negotiations until:

-- all existing negotiating positions, draft proposals and government commissioned studies are made public;

-- all current proposals are debated and discussed in parliament and public fora;

-- the federal process of consultation with the state governments is completed and a consensus is reached;

-- consultations are conducted with key constituents such as trade unions, farmers, women, Dalit, adivasi and other peoples' organizations, small and medium enterprises, cooperatives and hawkers;

-- a white paper is released and discussed in parliament on the socioeconomic and ecological impacts of all aspects of the EU-India FTA, especially addressing social inequality and discrimination. +