India-EU FTA talks non-transparent
September 6th 2010
Read the article on the website of the Indian daily The Hindu or below. Terming the ongoing India-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations “non-transparent” and a threat to the livelihoods of millions of people, Indian and European advocacy groups have warned that any hasty conclusion of the talks will only fuel poverty, inequality and environmental destruction. The terms of a new deal between the EU and India, negotiations of which have been “hijacked” by big business and vested interests on both sides, will jeopardise the livelihood of millions of small farmers and patients, a joint study by the Belgium-based Corporate Europe Observatory and India-based India FDI Watch has revealed. The report, ‘Trade invaders-how big business is driving the EU-India FTA negotiations,' released simultaneously in New Delhi and Brussels on Wednesday, gives an insight into how negotiators are working behind closed doors, hand-in-glove with industry to push a big business-first agenda. Internal European Commission documents on secret meetings with corporate lobbyists show how European supermarket giants are demanding access to the Indian retail market, threatening the livelihood of street vendors and small retailers. The study calls for a halt to the negotiations until all positions, draft proposals, stakeholder contributions and government commissioned studies are made public; comprehensive impact assessments and meaningful and broad consultations with the most affected groups in Europe and India are carried out; the negotiators put an end to making policies in consultation with big businesses; and development, livelihood and food sovereignty and environmental, social and gender justice form the core of the trade policy agenda. Report co-author Pia Eberhardt of the Corporate Europe Observatory said: “The EC and the Indian government have handed the negotiation agenda over to corporate lobby groups, ignoring the needs of their citizens. It is an outrage that two of the world's biggest so-called democracies should behave in this way.” ‘Livelihood at stake' India FDI Watch director Dharmendra Kumar, who has co-authored the report, said: “The negotiations could damage the lives and livelihood of millions of India's poorest. Giant retailers such as Carrefour, Metro, Tesco and Bharti Retail are pushing for opening up India for foreign investment in multi-brand retail, which is now banned. The result will push street traders and small farmers into poverty and hunger.” The talks have already triggered mass protests in India, with thousands of small retailers and street-vendors staging protests in cities across the country.