[Reader-list] Against Asean-India FTA

T Peter peter.ksmtf at gmail.com
Sat Sep 26 17:11:16 IST 2009


Several Major Fisheries Trade Unions organized a convention on
24thSeptember 2009 at Ernakulam, under the banner of the
*Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee*, to oppose the recently
signed *ASEAN-
India Free Trade Agreement*, with a unanimous demand for *“No fish imports”*.
The Agreement between India and 10 South East Asian nations signed on August
13th this year aims to allow the import of several fish products at lower
tariffs into India. This would grossly impact the employment and incomes of
over ten lakh traditional fish and allied workers in Kerala. Fishworkers in
Kerala are already dealing with the pressure of rising investment and
maintenance costs, and are unable to deal with even a one-rupee fluctuation
in price.

The convention was inaugurated by Justice (Retd.) V.R. Krishna Iyer, who
strongly condemned the FTA- stating that such an agreement is a betrayal of
the Fishworkers right to their livelihood. He further asserted that the deep
felt impacts of such an agreement would result in an erosion of the
Fishworkers livelihoods and basis of existence, leading to suicides in many
cases. He insisted that the only way the voice of the Fishworkers could be
heard at the national level, was through a joint struggle, which would lead
to an eventual victory over such anti-people measures.

Most ASEAN nations share climatic features with the Kerala coast and produce
similar varieties of fish. With their fish production far exceeding domestic
requirements, Kerala would undoubtedly become the dumping ground for these
countries soon. Compromises on monitoring and quality control measures
implicit in the agreement also bring about potential health hazards.

The anger among the Fishworkers, in the face of such a monstrous Agreement,
was elaborated by T. Peter (President, KSMTF): “The Fishing Community in
Kerala will take all measures to stop this agreement, and will physically
prevent any vessel carrying fish from the ASEAN nations from entering Cochin

There was a collective call for action against the agreement, with V.V.
Shashidharan (General Convenor, Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee)
stating that on October 20th, there will be protest marches and dharnas in
front of Central Government Offices, at all the Districts of Kerala. And,
the culmination of these protests would be a March to the Parliament on
November 11, voicing the concerns of the Fishworkers communities at the
national platform.

The main participants present at the gathering were as follows:

Mathew Master *(INTUC)*

M.M. Lawrence *(CITU)*

V. Dinakaran, former MLA *(Akhil Kerala Deevara Sabha)*

Joseph Xavier Kalapuraikal *(Kerala State Fishing Boat Operators

O.B. Ravindran *(BMS)*

Umar Ottumal *(STU)*

T. Peter *(KSMTF)*

P. Lawrence *(UTUC)*

A.T. Sreedharan *(HMS) *

Chavara Sarasan *(Malsya Thozhilali Congress (S))*
Charles George *(TUCI)*
 Petty producers in State will be hit by Asean pa

State Planning Board Vice-Chairman Prabhat Patnaik inaugurating the seminar
on `Issues raised by ASEAN pact’, organised by the Kerala Gazetted Officer
 Express News Service
First Published : 19 Sep 2009 12:29:00 AM IST
Last Updated :

KOTTAYAM: India’s quest for hegemony in South- East Asia by any means,
including the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and additional one-to-one
agreements with other countries, amply aided by the US, will affect the
interests of mass petty producers in the country, especially those in
Kerala, said State Planning Board vice-chairman Prabhat Patnaik here on

He was speaking after inaugurating a state-level seminar on `Issues Raised
by ASEAN Pact’, organised by the Kerala Gazetted Officers’ Association

“Millions of peasants and workers in the country stand to lose terribly as
policy makers seem to be obsessed with growth rate alone and bank on a
language aimed at becoming the superpower,” he said.

Patnaik alleged that the central executive was not bothered to ratify
international treaties in the Parliament. He said that such a stance was
highly objectionable, particularly when the provisions of such pacts
impinged the rights of the member states and the livelihood of millions of

The argument raised on this score is that such ratification by the
Parliament was not mandatory as per the country’s Constitution. “But,
countries like the US, which often spearhead such agreements, are obliged to
present them for the sanction of their respective national forums before
signing them,” he said. Patnaik said that the promise made by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh to a delegation from Kerala that details of the ASEAN draft
agreement would be shared with the State, and apprehensions, if any, would
be addressed before signing the pact was broken when it was signed without
any such gesture.

It is bad for a country that it cannot trust the words of the Prime

The Congress seems to be riding roughshod with its victory in the Lok Sabha
polls. He said that in a federal structure the states had the right to
demand. Kerala was genuinely concerned about the fact that many of the
State’s agricultural produces, including pepper, rubber and coconuts as well
as the fisheries products, all of which fall under the petty production
sector, were listed in the third category of goods in the ASEAN FTA that
empowers reduction of duty on the import of these items from the existing 80
% to the 35-40 % range over a period of time. Patnaik also pointed out that
the actual income of petty producers should also be evaluated with respect
to the relative exchange rates of the rupee, rather than relying on the
production cost factor alone.

“However, it will completely wipe out the little gains which may come
through increased productivity. The peasants of the country should be
protected by invoking a livelihood box, considering the experiences from the
previous FTAs where scores of people were thrown out of their jobs,” he

ASEAN nations have a track record of systematically dumping products, which
would prove harmful to Kerala which is already in trouble following the SAAR
C FTA, as it had facilitated the flow of produces like pepper from Vietnam
and elsewhere.

Kerala University former Vice- Chancellor B Ekbal said that the ASEAN
agreement and many of the one-to-one agreements recently signed between
India and other countries were manifestations of a strategy by the US and
other developed nations to impose their policies which could not be enforced
through the WTO. KGOA state president K Krishna Panicker presided over the
meeting and state general secretary K Sivakumar welcomed the gathering.

Mons Joseph MP inaugurated a session on `ASEAN Agreement and Farm Sector’.

State Planning Board member K N Harilal presented the topic and Infam
chairman Mathew Vadakkemuri spoke. Another session on `ASEAN Pact and
Fisheries Sector’, was also held. Inaugurating the session, Fisheries
Minister S Sharma said that the Centre had issued a death warrant to the
country’s fisheries sector through the ASEAN agreement. “Kerala had posted
an all-time record last year in the export of fish products. With unfettered
imports, the scenario will undergo a drastic change for the worse,” he said.

School of Industrial Fisheries director Prof Madhusoodana Kurup presented
the topic. Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation general secretary T
Peter and joint secretary K J Antony spoke.

More information about the reader-list mailing list