As many as 32 civil society organisations and NGOs on Friday urged the government not to join in the talks of the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) for Prosperity, stating that it can impact India's policy space to develop critical economic sectors.
They also claimed that India has joined IPEF talks without due consideration and parliamentary scrutiny in terms of IPEF's implications for India's economic and development policy space.
In a letter to the commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, these organisations said that the US has strategically pitched the IPEF as 'not the usual' trade agreement as it does not include market access commitments such as import duty cuts.
"This strategy has misled the Indian government into believing that the IPEF will only involve cooperation and no commitment to open up imports. On the contrary, the IPEF is actually more intrusive than Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as it targets national policies and regulations across member countries and will therefore make deep inroads into India's regulatory policy space," the letter said.
It added that the IPEF is likely to push US interests not through direct market access channels, but through changing regulations and standards, which will then indirectly lead to market access in the second stage.
The IPEF's four pillars (Trade, Supply Chains, Clean economy and Fair economy) will include provisions, and therefore create a wide ranging impact, on multiple sectors including agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and services, as well as on constituencies such as farmers, fishers, workers and women, it said.
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In particular, the IPEF will also impact policies related to the digital economy, environment and sustainability, taxation and finance among other issues, it added.
"We urge India to not join the trade pillar citing geopolitical considerations and without analysing the full implications of the agreement. India will pay a huge cost by sacrificing its economic and social interests and therefore, the signatories to this letter call upon the Indian government to begin a process of exiting from the IPEF as it had done prudently in the past with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2019," it said.
The signatories of the letter include Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA - Kisan Swaraj); All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN); All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS); All India Peoples Science Network; Association of Healthcare Workers and Technicians; Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU); Campaign for Access to Medicines, Diagnostics and Devices, India; and National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO; and Kerala Coconut Farmers Association.
The IPEF was launched jointly by the US and other partner countries of the Indo-Pacific region on May 23 in Tokyo. The 14 IPEF partners represent 40 per cent of global GDP and 28 per cent of global goods and services trade.
The framework is structured around four pillars relating to trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy (issues like tax and anti-corruption).
India has joined all the pillars except the trade one. Talks of IPEF officials are currently going on in the US.
The 14 countries include the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, India, Fiji, and seven ASEAN countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).
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