News / 27 September 2011

Indians rally against India-EU Free Trade Agreement

Last week, another round of trade negotiations between the EU and India took place in Brussels, Belgium. Local organisations in India are concerned that the outcome of these negotiations will have a negative impact on their livelihoods and access to natural resources. They also worry about its effect on political conflicts and the maintenance of human rights in their country. Recent public demonstrations such as a rally last month in the border town of Moreh, Manipur, North East India, reflect these concerns.


The negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and India have been launched more than three years ago. Such an agreement essentially has to eliminate all barriers to trade between the two parties, but also issue like Investment Policies, Intellectual Property Rights and Government Procurement are on the negotiation table. Though this agreement might also generate new business opportunities for Indian companies in Europe, many local organisations urge the Indian Government to consider the serious negative impact that such a FTA will have on the lives of the poor, and indigenous people.


On august 6th, the Hill Tribe Council and Meetei Council in Moreh, Manipur, North East India, sent a letter to the Indian Prime Minister in which they expressed their concern that the agreement will further erode their access to natural resources, and might lead to an increase in human rights violations and armed conflict in their region. They fear that their forests, mountains and rivers will be affected by - what they call - an incursion of private industries.


The organisations also oppose to the fact that the proposed FTA has been negotiated in close-door meetings without taking the principles of transparency into consideration and that the discussions are conducted without the participation of the people's representatives. They stress that under the ILO conventions of the United Nations the governments of India and the EU are obliged to seek free, fair and prior informed consent of the indigenous people in the region before taking up trade agreements which might affect land, forests or water traditionally owned by indigenous people. They also demand that the Agreement should be debated in the Indian parliament first and that the impacts on the human rights situation should be assessed, since already at present, the violation of human rights in the region are considered to be grave. The organisations further stress that a strong mechanism should be designed to ensure social and environmental standards.


Letter of Hill Tribe Council and Meetei Council in Moreh, Manipur, North East India to the Indian Prime Minister


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