People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 26

June 28, 2009

 

 

No To Compromise On Farmers’ Interests!

 

AIKS Demands Transparency in Trade Negotiations

 

K Varadha Rajan, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), issued the following statement from New Delhi on June 17, 2009.

COMMERCE minister Anand Sharma probably had the first international assignment for the newly inducted ministers, when he represented India at the Cairns Group Meeting at Bali, Indonesia. The Cairns Group is a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries which account for over 25 per cent of the world’s agricultural exports. During the WTO’s current Doha round of negotiations, the group has continued to push for the liberalisation of trade in agricultural exports. On June 9, on the sidelines of the Cairns Group Meeting, United States trade representative Ron Kirk and commerce minister Anand Sharma agreed to “re-launch” the multilateral trade talks. On June 15, the Press Information Bureau reported that minister Sharma has left for the US and that, starting from June 17, he will meet with US commerce secretary Mr Gary Locke, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US trade representative Ronald Kirk. The undue haste with which the commerce minister has gone ahead suggests that both Sharma and Kirk want to arrive at a bilateral compromise on Doha, although the multilateral WTO ministerial meeting is set for November 30 to December 2. 

The Congress government which had left no stone unturned to prove its ‘pro-farmer’ credentials during the elections seems to have taken the first steps to shed its camouflage, prove its commitment to the neo-liberal policies and pay obeisance to the global trinity of the WB-IMF-WTO. The UPA government had earlier deviated from India’s position in Cancun where it stood firm on both agriculture and non-agriculture chapters of the Doha Text and, controversially, agreed to the July Framework 2004 in Geneva on WTO’s Doha Round. In subsequent years, the Indian government has increasingly compromised on practically all controversial elements of tariff liberalisation, protection of small-scale industries and protection of farmers. At stake in these trade negotiations are hundreds of millions of livelihoods in the farming and non-agriculture sectors that India has fought hard to preserve over the past eight years since the launch of the Doha Development Round. 

Ironically, while developed countries have pushed harder rather than compromise in all key areas, the Congress-led government has seemed to agree to most of the demands thus far. In the field of agriculture, while both the EU and US subsidies will not come down based on the provisions of the current Doha texts, the language on protection of developing country farm products (“special products”) has been diluted beyond recognition. The language on a special safeguard mechanism has also become so complicated that any real import surges by the EU and US and other trading partners will not be prevented by the current proposals.

There is also movement towards compromising India’s position on negotiations related to the TRIPS agreement and Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). Initially, along with many other like-minded countries, India demanded the incorporation of mandatory disclosure requirements (of where companies sourced their material) and legal remedy for non compliance within the TRIPS agreement. Of late, there is a move to drop the initial demand and agree on the voluntary disclosure provision mooted by the developed countries and their corporations. The deal is likely to have serious implications for the services sector and also on the question of Non-Agriculture (manufacturing, fisheries etc) Market Access (NAMA).

The undue haste with which the Congress government is rushing with this process when all responsible governments at this time are assessing the impacts of the financial crisis and the free trade model on their economies is cause for suspicion. While most of the 153 WTO members are busy dealing with national priorities related to the financial and food crises, the UPA government is eager to bilaterally negotiate with the US on Doha.  The hurry with which the Congress government has gone about the issue with absolutely no consultations with political parties, experts and peasant organisations is condemnable. With our agriculture sector and jobs in distress, the need of the hour is to hold firm and ensure that we exercise our right to protect our food, agriculture and other production, and to build robust farm, non-agriculture industries and services sectors.

The All India Kisan Sabha demands that the farmers’ interests should not be compromised and the discussions must be transparent and no commitments should be made without discussing all the issues involved in parliament and with peasant organisations. (INN)