Corporate Lobby hijacks EU-India talks

Business Agenda Threatens Livelihoods of Millions Brussels / Delhi: The livelihoods of millions of small farmers, street traders and patients are at risk under the terms of a new trade deal being negotiated by the EU and India which has been hijacked by big business, a new joint report from Corporate Europe Observatory and India FDI Watch reveals [1]. Launched simultaneously in Brussels and Delhi, 'Trade Invaders – How big business is driving the EU-India free trade negotiations' shows how, behind closed doors, negotiators on both sides are working hand-in-hand with industry to push a big-business-first agenda, which will fuel poverty and inequality and threaten labour rights. Report co-author Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory said: “The European Commission 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.” Internal Commission documents about secret meetings with corporate lobbyists show how European supermarket giants are demanding access to the Indian retail market in the talks, threatening the livelihoods of street traders and small retailers. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) is pushing for tougher enforcement of intellectual property rights, threatening India’s generic drug industry which supplies low-cost medication for AIDs, cancer and malaria to much of the developing world [2]. And big business lobby groups like BusinessEurope have been behind the EU's drive to slash India's trade taxes, endangering the future of millions of small-scale farmers, fisherfolk and small enterprises. The EU-India trade negotiations, scheduled to complete in early 2011, have already triggered mass protests in India with thousands of small retailers and street traders staging a sit-in protest in front of the Indian Parliament and in other cities in August [3]. India FDI Watch director Dharmendra Kumar, one of the authors of the report, said: “These free trade negotiations could damage the lives and livelihoods of millions of India’s poorest. Giant retailers like Carrefour, Metro, Tesco and Bharti are pushing to open India up for foreign investment in multi-brand retail, which is currently banned. The result will push street traders and small farmers into poverty and hunger.” 'Trade Invaders' also highlights a campaign run by Brussels-based PR giant Hill and Knowlton on behalf of the Indian National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) aimed at deregulating the European labour market, which might worsen the conditions of migrant workers and increase the downward pressure on labour standards in Europe. Indian and European business lobbyists are also insisting that no environmental or social standards should form part of the deal. Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory added: “The corporate campaign against labour and environmental standards shows that people and the environment in Europe and India will pay a high price for industry's excessive influence over the trade negotiations. It's high time for the Commission to end its undemocratic liaison with corporate lobbyists.” Campaigners in Europe and India are demanding a halt to the negotiations until all negotiating documents are made available, consultations with the most affected groups in Europe and India have taken place and negotiators have put an end to the practice of joint policy-making with big business. Contact: Pia Eberhardt, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) pia[at] +32 - (0)2 89 30 930 mobile: +32 – (0)4 89 28 16 93 Dharmendra Kamur, India FDI Watch indiafdiwatch[at] mobile: +91 – (0)9 87 11 79 084 Notes: [1] Trade Invaders – How big business is driving the EU-India free trade negotiations, Corporate Europe Observatory and India FDI Watch, September 2010. India FDI Watch is a campaign to promote ecologically sustainable and economically viable modes of production, distribution and consumption. It endeavours to protect food security and livelihoods by reining in the rise of corporations in agriculture and the retail sector. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making. [2] A case study on the demands of the pharmaceutical industry highlights how Indian generic drug-makers would be obliged to repeat the innovator companies' costly and time consuming tests because public authorities could no longer rely on their test data to approve the generic drug. This could delay or even prevent the registration of and price competition through generics. Big Pharma also wants an extension of the standard life of patents from 20 to up to 25 years and enforcement measures including provisions allowing the seizure of products suspected of infringing intellectual property rights at the Indian border, which could hamper legitimate trade in generics. [3] On 9th August, retailers and street traders observed a ‘Day of Retail Democracy’ by organising sit-in protests across India demanding corporations quit retail. The protest was organised against moves to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and negotiations for free trade agreements. In Delhi, hundreds of small retailers and street traders participated in the sit-in protest held in front of the parliament (at Jantar Mantar). Protest actions were organised in all parts of the country including Nagpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Madurai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bhopal, Indore, Ahmadabad, Surat, Ranchi, Aurangabad, Jhansi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Bhilwara, Raipur, Muzaffarpur, Rourkela and Bilaspur.

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