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Civil society groups urge EC & Indian govt to halt FTA negotiations
05
Oct '10
Civil society groups urged the European Commission and Indian Government to halt free trade negotiations, scheduled to continue in Delhi tomorrow. In an open letter, signed by more than 100 groups, they warned that the talks would damage the livelihoods of millions of people in both India and Europe, exacerbating poverty and undermining economic and social development.

Talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and India are said to be making extremely good progress with plans to push the agenda in the run up to an EU-India Summit in Brussels in December.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, representatives from Indian and European civil society groups said that the behind-closed-door negotiations must be made more transparent – and be accountable to wider interests in society.

Research by the groups involved shows how business interests have driven the negotiating agenda – pushing the priorities of big business at the expense of small farmers, fishing communities, street traders and small businesses and putting the health of millions of people at risk.

Dharmendra Kumar, director of India FDI Watch, told the press conference:

“There is a terrible irony in the world's two largest supposed democracies secretly negotiating a trade agreement which will be potentially disastrous for peoples' rights, livelihoods and for the environment. Big businesses from the EU and India have captured the agenda for these talks, at the expense of wider society. This capture is wrong and we demand an immediate halt to the negotiations. Governments must put people before profit."

Wim De Ceukelaire from the Belgian Platform for Action on Health and Solidarity, also speaking at the conference, raised concerns about the talks' impact on access to medicines.

“India is known as the pharmacy of the developing world. It would be an outrage for Europe to undermine the Indian drug industry's capacity to provide cheap and safe medicines to poor countries through this agreement – but that is what the EU seems to be doing."

Priti Darooka, Executive Director of Programme on Women's Economic Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR) told the press conference that the talks were in direct conflict with Indian government policies aimed at creating employment and protecting rights.

“The Indian government promises to provide universal basic rights including the right to food, education, health, social security and work, and yet we have a free trade agreement with which the European Union will deny people, especially women precisely these same rights. It is like the right hand gives but the left snatches it away.”

The event followed the Asia Europe People's Forum in Brussels which brought together people from Asia and Europe to discuss Building States of Citizens for Citizens.

The call comes at the start of a two-day conference on “Beyond free trade – alternativesfor decent work” organised by trade unions and civil society organisations in Brussels.

India FDI Watch

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