RSS arm starts stir against free trade agreement

New Delhi (IANS) Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) offshoot Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) announced a 10-day nationwide protest against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the 16 country Free Trade Agreement (FTA), between October 10-20 in all the district centres, and also announced that it will be submitting a Memorandum to Prime Minister through District Magistrate in each district.

RCEP is a mega free trade agreement of 10 ASEAN countries with their six FTA partners, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The pact aims to cover the trade in goods and services, as well as investment, intellectual property and dispute resolution.

The RSS offshoot has demanded that government must not sign RCEP, claiming that it would push the present and future generations to joblessness and poverty. The wing has also demanded to urgently publish the studies carried out by the government on the performance of FTA and finalise and publish the parliamentary standing committee report on FTA.

The Ministries led by Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, Textile Minister Smriti Irani, Steel Minister Dharamedra Pradhan, Mines and Minerals Ministry of Prahlad Patel have already either opposed the deal or are seeking protection for farmers and domestic industry.

“The nation is currently facing a crisis in both manufacturing and agriculture which is resulting in job losses. Though the crisis in the manufacturing is due to the lack of a comprehensive industrial policy since 1991; the FTAs India has signed in the last decade play a major role by allowing cheap imports and hollowing out of Indian manufacturing,” the Swadeshi Jagran Manch said in a press release.

“RCEP would effectively function as a 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 the ARCEP 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,” the release added.

The Ministries fear cheaper dumps from China will wipe out local players, while the dairy industry fears Australian and New Zealand imports.

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