'We have to stop RCEP': Farmers plan nationwide protest against trade deal

Farmers' organisations have planned a nationwide protest on November 4 to demand that the government keep agriculture out of a 16-nation trade agreement currently being negotiated in Thailand.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella organization of about 250 farmers unions from across the country, said that they will burn effigies depicting the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, to mark their protest and warn the government.

Farmers won't be able to compete should the country agree to cut duties for agricultural and dairy products in the proposed trade pact, said V.M. Singh, a convener of the the farmers’ group. 

Imports of dairy and agricultural products including wheat, cotton and oil seeds would affect the livelihood of millions of Indian farmers, he said.

The government should defer signing of the agreement and hold consultations with farmers, state governments and other stake holders before taking a final decision, said Singh. 

“We have to stop RCEP,” he said. It is not clear yet what terms India will agree to in order to join what could become the world’s largest trade deal. The final stage of negotiations have begun in Bangkok and Indian trade minister Piyush Goyal will travel for the ministerial meeting there on November 1. The nations are seeking to conclude the negotiations by November end.

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