Farmers' Movements call for protests across the country on October 24, 2019 against RCEP Free Trade Agreement
-Press release by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) dated 6 October, 2019
Farmers’ movements are inviting all citizens, social organisations and people’s movements of India to hold protests all over the country on the 24th of October 2019, against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Free Trade Agreement.
The Indian government is negotiating RCEP with 15 other countries including ASEAN countries along with large industrial economies like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The RCEP is a great threat to our food and farm sector, and the negotiations are reportedly coming to a close by the beginning of November 2019.
Here are some reasons why we are calling on our state and national governments to take agriculture out the RCEP and all other Free Trade Agreements:-
* The RCEP will permanently bring down import duties on most agricultural commodities to zero.
* Many countries are looking to dump their agricultural produce in India - sectors like dairy, which support livelihoods of millions of our marginal farmers, especially women, are under grave threat. Similar is the case with plantation products.
* Seed companies will get more powers to protect their Intellectual Property Rights, and farmers would be criminalised when they save and exchange seeds.
* Foreign corporations could bypass national courts and sue our governments for favouring our own farmers and workers at private arbitration tribunals via Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that are being discussed.
* Leaked documents indicate that foreign investors would be able to purchase farmland and foreign corporations might also get support in government/public procurement of goods and services.
* Large retail will get more power to wipe out local markets.
With 11 of these countries, India already has significant trade deficit and this is only projected to increase with the signing of RCEP.
Indian farmers cannot be subjected to one more free trade deal that is not protective of their interests and pits them against significant subsidies elsewhere. We need to collectively resist and stop RCEP from moving further, and to ensure that agriculture - including the dairy sector and plantation products - is taken out of RCEP. We need to activate our respective state governments to intervene immediately, and get them to write to the Union Government.
It is not just farmers who are facing an existential crisis here – the nation’s food sovereignty is at stake here. We need to protect ourselves by keeping agriculture out of the purview of all free trade agreements and we certainly need to stop RCEP.
A background note on RCEP, a letter that you can submit as a memorandum to your state government and to the Minister of Commerce are downloadable here.
Please let us know if you plan to do an action and where, at this email address of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements:- firstname.lastname@example.org