State apprehensive over Indo-U.S. trade talks

Sunil Kumar writes to Centre seeking safeguards for farmers


Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar has shot off a letter to Union Minister for Commerce Piyush Goyal outlining the State's apprehensions regarding the Indo-U.S. trade talks that are underway.

In a two-page letter on Friday, Mr. Sunil Kumar urged the Union Minister to safeguard the interests of Indian farmers, drawing his attention to the recent outpouring of protest against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Lauding the Centre's decision to opt out of the RCEP agreement last year, Mr. Sunil Kumar warned that Indian farmers could never expect a level playing field with their U.S. counterparts. The U.S. farmers benefited from the land-holding patterns of that country as well as advanced production techniques and direct and indirect subsidies, he pointed out.

Mr. Sunil Kumar's letter should be seen against the backdrop of the concerns raised by farmer organisations at the national level over the U.S. trade deal. The Minister had also raised the issue in the State Assembly earlier this week.

Mr. Sunil Kumar reminded Mr. Goyal that India had banned the import of certain pulses to check the fall in prices of domestic produce, a regulatory measure that had not gone down well with countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia.

On no account should India agree to demands for unconditional market access for U.S. meat and dairy products, Mr. Sunil Kumar said. Indian meat and dairy products are of better quality in addition to possessing the distinction of deriving them from animals reared on feed of natural origin, he said.

Kerala had been in the forefront of the agitations against the RCEP agreement last year. In October, the Kerala Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution demanding the Centre to withdraw from signing the RCEP pact, a free trade agreement (FTA) involving 16 nations including China in the Asia-Oceania region.

The LDF government, supported by the Opposition UDF, had also organised a public convention in Thiruvananthapuram as part of registering the State's objections to the FTA.