Aug 07 2012

EU-India Free Trade Agreement

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EU-India Free Trade Agreement

The ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and India raise a number of serious concerns which need to be addressed.

Promoting labour standards: the Indian government continues to refuse to agree to the inclusion of labour standards in the FTA and still hasn’t ratified core ILO conventions on ending child labour and freedom of association. We must ensure that the inclusion of binding labour standards is put to the top of the FTA negotiating agenda.

Movement of workers (Mode 4): Mode 4 (temporary movement of workers) provisions do not have adequate safeguards to ensure that Indian workers are not exploited, or to prevent undercutting or unemployment in the British labour market. Leaked details of the current safeguard mechanisms show them to be inadequate. The UK government must seek to strengthen them.

Responsible investment: EU and Indian investors should not be able to prevent governments from acting in the public interest. Such investors should be required to respect human rights and environmental standards. We must ensure that the government’s “right to regulate” is protected, and that binding investor responsibilities are included in the FTA.

Protecting public health: India has provided affordable medicines to the world’s poorest through its generic medicine industry. Yet if the FTA includes tougher intellectual property laws this industry and the lives it saves are under threat. The UK government must give assurances that the ability to produce affordable medicines is protected under the FTA.

Support the poorest: 70 percent of Indians rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Many of them face chronic hunger. And many of them stand to lose from this FTA. The UK must also ensure that agricultural liberalisation only proceeds at the rate it takes workers to find decent work (which will be quicker if India can strengthen its social protection systems and labour market institutions).

Proper consultations: the FTA negotiations have been done in secret and the EU’s impact assessment for the FTA is incomplete. For each of these priority concerns raised above, the UK must share the negotiating positions with civil society, and undertake proper impact assessments.

Only then will we be able to agree to an EU-India free Trade Agreement!

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