‘Free’ trade between India and Europe?

This video is called Disposable People: 3 billion peasant farmers.

By Prakash Karat:

A treaty for the rich

Friday 25 May 2012

Talks over a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union have rumbled on for some time. Left forces in India and Europe have opposed the FTA – but why?

Free trade agreements have become a common instrument for advancing the interests of big corporations and financial institutions around the world.

Big business seeks to open up markets and remove barriers to the cross-border movement of goods, services and finance.

The Doha round of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation on lowering “trade barriers” has long since stalled, with developed and developing countries at odds over a range of issues such as agricultural subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.

This has led to many governments which favour economic liberalisation to enter into bilateral trade agreements. Current negotiations over the EU-India FTA should be seen in this light.

The agreement in question is officially called the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement. Talks started in 2007 and a final deal with the EU is expected to be concluded by the end of this year.

India‘s corporate media makes it seem that the only remaining roadblocks to the FTA lie in cutting tariffs on automobile and wine imports from the EU, which India opposes, and details of the employment of Indian professionals in the EU, on which Europe’s diplomats are unwilling to make concessions.

But these differences are based on extremely narrow interests. For the vast majority of Indians there are far more significant problems with the FTA. In India there are widespread fears that the agreement will be harmful for large sections of the people.

The FTA proposes a complete elimination of import tariffs for over 90 per cent of agricultural and industrial products in India. This will mean that agricultural products such as cereals, other crops, processed foods, milk and other dairy products and meat and poultry could be freely imported into India by the EU.

Agriculture in the EU is highly subsidised and these subsidies are outside the remit of the trade negotiations.

Millions of small-scale peasants in India engaged in crop production and animal husbandry stand no chance of competing with shiploads of subsidised products from the EU.

Set against a backdrop of rising costs for farmers, a lack of fair prices and a burgeoning debt burden this could put millions of livelihoods at risk.

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