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Industry, civil society urge govt to reconsider India-EU FTA

As both India and EU push for early conclusion of the EU-India Foreign Trade Agreement(FTA), industry and civil society have urged the Indian government to reconsider its decision to sign the pact which may imperil local pharma and dairy industry as well as undermine India's policy in key sectors.

The ministerial meeting between Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht is scheduled to be held in Brussels on April 15 to conclude the trade deal.

 Industry, civil society urge govt to reconsider India-EU FTA

EU wants to export its heavily subsidised dairy products - which actually make their dairy products cheaper than the cost - to the burgeoning food market within India.

According to a statement by Madhyam, a Delhi-based NGO that focuses on research and public education on economic and developmental issues, Europe stands to gain a lot more from the trade pact than India since the FTA proposes to "lower tariffs for EU's heavily subsidised agricultural exports that will flood the domestic market, threatening farmers across the country" said Yudhvir Singh, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

According to Madhyam, EU wants to export its heavily subsidised dairy products - which actually make their dairy products cheaper than the cost - to the burgeoning food market within India.

"It does not make sense that now dairy trade will be opened up to unfair competition from subsidised European exports under this FTA, just when it shows potential to grow into a vibrant industry", said R S Sodhi, Managing director of the country's largest milk cooperative Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which owns and markets Amul brand of dairy products.

"This will rob the domestic dairy industry and 80 million farmers that are connected to it, from their rightful access to a growing market within India", he added.

On intellectual property, EU is insisting on clauses that enforce IP rights of multinational pharmaceutical and agrochemical companies. According to media reports, EU has demanded the patent term for medicines be extended from the current 20 years to accommodate the time taken in regulatory procedures, approvals, and delays.

This would mean that if a patent approval takes five years, the innovator company may claim a patent protection for 25 years, keeping generic penetration at bay during that period.

"We can draw parallels to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The EU-India FTA reaches the level of IP enforcement standards that ACTA was intended to reach", said Dr. Gopakumar Nair, Chairperson, IPR Committee, Indian Drug Manufacturers Association.

EU is also asking India to legally guarantee that liberalisation of the foreign direct investment (FDI) regime in service sectors including retail and insurance will not be rolled back.

"India should not legally commit to policies on FDI under this FTA, especially in critical sectors like retail, which will make any future change impossible. The government cannot seal this issue at the behest of EU while a national debate is still ongoing on the subject", said Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General of Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 17:53:47 IST