An affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch on Thursday announced that it would carry out 10 days of protests across the country to demand that the government does not sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement between 16 countries.
The announcement came a day ahead of the scheduled visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India. In a statement, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch said it would submit a memorandum through district magistrates in all districts asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to sign the agreement.
Addressing the Prime Minister, the memorandum said: “As you are aware, the Government of India is moving forward to enter into a free trade agreement called RCEP, with other 15 countries, with a provision to reduce import duty to zero on 80% to 95% of goods. If this agreement is reached, it will have adverse far-reaching effects on India’s manufacturing, agriculture and dairy, due to which not only will there be a huge adverse effect on the production due to increase in duty free imports in these areas, the possibilities of new capacities will also cease to exist.”
The memo added that the government’s ‘Make-In-India’ initiative would “come to a complete halt’ with the signing of the RCEP.
“Most of our industries have either shut down or are on the verge of closure, due to the dumping of cheap Chinese goods for a long time. In such a case, the commitment of zero import duty on 80% of Chinese products in the RCEP is beyond comprehension. This will not only destroy our remaining industries, but will also hurt our workers’ jobs and ‘Make-in-India’ will remain only a dream,” it said.
Stating that the agreement would hit the dairy industry and farmers as well, the memo added: “Swadeshi Jagran Manch warns the government that if the government goes ahead with this agreement, Swadeshi Jagran Manch will be constrained to intensify its movement against the RCEP.”
With negotiations going back till 2012, the RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN countries and India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.