Don't sign free trade agreement with EU, yet: Parliament panel to government

EU-India FTA must pass Parliament scrutiny before it is signed, says panel chairperson

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Friday 12 April 2013

Even as India readies to sign the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (EU-FTA), the parliamentary standing committee on commerce has cautioned the  government against rushing into the agreement.   

The development comes just four days before commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is scheduled to meet the EU trade commissioner, Karl De Gucht. Sharma's meeting with Gucht in Brussels on April 15 is meant to iron out differences between the EU and India, clearing the way for the free trade agreement.

The committee members during a meeting on April 11 expressed strong concerns over the government going ahead with the FTA without taking note of the committee’s views. Following this, committee chairperson and BJP MP Shanta Kumar wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, stating that the government should wait till the committee submits its report to Parliament.

"I urge you not to conclude the EU-India Broad based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) immediately and to kindly ensure that the Agreement is signed only after the Committee present/lays its report on the subject to Parliament."

The Parliament panel chairperson in his letter has said the parliamentary standing committee is presently examining the subject of India's engagement with FTAs, signed or in the pipeline, with various countries, regions and blocs in a detailed manner to appreciate the challenges and opportunities arising out of these agreements.

Kumar said the parliamentary scrutiny enables every stakeholder to give his or her view and can be used as an effective tool by the government to impress the other party to agreement on the nation's mood on sensitive issues under negotiation. This will help to conclude the deal that is most favourable to the country.

"You will appreciate that secrecy maintained around trade negotiations is undesirable. After all in a democracy like ours, there is no room for non-accountability. The power of treaty-making is so important and has such far-reaching consequences to people and our polity that some element of accountability should be introduced into the process," the committee chairperson said in the letter.

He said the committee feels that FTAs under negotiation, like EU-India FTA, must pass Parliament scrutiny before they are signed by the government as these trade agreements always have deep ramifications for Indian farmers, dairy, workers, financial services, local industries, intellectual property protection, government procurement.

See detailed report on how the EU-India FTA would affect Indian farmers in the next issue (April 16-30, 2013) of DTE


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