The European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) is a leading Think and Do Tank based in Brussels and Luxembourg, the twin capitals of the European Union, focusing on EU-Asia relations. As a policy research centre, its aim is to promote understanding between the European Union and Asia. In its effort to strengthen ties between Asia and Europe and to ensure in-depth, comprehensive research and information exchange, EIAS recently set up an office in India.
Geographically, EIAS focuses on North-East Asia, South-East Asia and South Asia, including related areas, covering a wide range of policy-related domains. By doing so, EIAS seeks to provide information to policy makers in Europe and Asia, as well as on a global scale, offering academic and hands-on expertise to bear on decision-making processes with regard to EU-Asia affairs and developments in Asia. EIAS also acts as a forum for discussion, dialogue and frequent exchanges of ideas, bringing together all relevant stakeholders from the institutional level, diplomatic missions, academia, the corporate sector, civil society, the media and all other important segments of society.
The workshop was divided into two sessions. The first session focused on market access for goods, the overall ambition of the services package and achieving a meaningful chapter on government procurement. This session focused on the way labour rights and environmental considerations are safeguarded with the greatest care during FTA negotiations.
The second session was a thorough discussion on the impact of the FTA on EU and Indian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), environmental, social and labour. This session examined what role should, can and do CSOs play during and after these free trade negotiations, what the role of the media is, and how EU and India CSO’s can cooperate.
During the discussions I emphasized that as the EESC rapporteur on the EU - India FTA I have had the opportunity to develop a thorough knowledge of the content and negotiations around the proposed Agreement. I believe that trade can bring many benefits just like participation of civil society can improve the lives of the people on both sides.
However, as I pointed out, I do not think that an FTA is important since trade is taking place in any event and trade unions are already working together. The problem with India is who it consulted in the first place. The Sustainable Impact Assessment was done in 2005 was not flexible and did not take into account important factors. Apart from the sustainability assessment the problem is that nobody had consulted civil society on either side. Nobody had consulted with trade unions from either side. Nobody is giving voice to the poor people of India which are earning so little. Due diligence must be done to the basis of the population. These are all elements which I have been trying to bring on the public with my work through the EESC.
Human rights and safety clauses are another issue. As I mentioned, these mechanisms should be put in place on both sides. There is a great danger that the implementation of such a trade agreement will result in populations being displaced. I believe that a mechanism to halt the FTA when such displacements of population would take place is necessary. In any case, the EU should apply on India the same condition it has applied on China when negotiating the same Agreement and not place a heavier burden on the shoulders of the Indian people.
Other speakers included Mr Vinay Sharma, (PhD Communication & Law, Telangana University)
Mr Tamás Maczák (Policy Officer, Trade Relations with India, Australia and New Zealand, DG Trade) Mr Georgios Altintzis (Policy Officer, Economic and Social Policy Department, International Trade Union Confederation), Ms Rohini Sen (Research Associate, Jindal Global Law School), Mrs Chanda Korgaokar (Senior Associate, European Institute for Asian Studies) Prof Biswajit Das (Director, Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi) Dr Pierre-Michael Gröning (Trade Policy Advisor, Foreign Trade Association), Mr Rafael Peels (Researcher, ILO Research Department)
This was a great opportunity for me to provide some insight on the proposed terms of the EU-India FTA, its consequences on both sides and the way civil society participation can assist in bringing a real benefit to the people of both the EU countries and India.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s vision on Trade, Human Rights and Civil Society participation.