A free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) may limit India’s ability to shape its seed policy, agriculture and food policy, raw material and energy policy and its digital economy policy, among others, cautions the Forum for Trade Justice (FTJ), a national network of more than 100 organisations.

The apprehensions of FTJ stem from the proposals made by EU in its negotiating text. To what extent those proposals will be accepted by India will be known only when the negotiations conclude. The group of organisations also says the development policies of India including ensuring access to medicines, vaccines and therapeutics and market access for small and marginalised producers will also be severely challenged if EU has its way.

“For us, agriculture is our life, our heritage and the source of food and livelihoods. We do not wish to sell in EU markets and cannot meet the EU standards. But heavily subsidised products from the EU will take away our space in our own national market as well”. Yudhvir Singh, General Secretary, Bhartitya Kisan Union (Tikait), a member of FTJ, says.

K V Biju, National Coordinator of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh points out that the negotiations on agriculture, dairy and fisheries are areas of major concern for Indian farmers.  “The proposed FTA targets reduction or complete elimination of import duties in agricultural, dairy, meat, poultry and fisheries products and is likely to create serious threats for millions of Indian farmers, fishers and milk producers, many of whom are small-scale producers and many are women” he says.

On the seeds front, FTJ members say FTA could curtail the freedom of Indian farmers to save and exchange seeds freely. “The EU is attempting to force India to join UPOV 1991, an international convention, which protects seed companies’ rights over farmers’ rights. EU’s TRIPS-plus demands will also expand MNC control over agrochemicals. The resultant increase in the prices of pesticides and seeds will further raise the already massive costs of production for Indian farmers”, says Kannaiyan Subramaniam, General Secretary, South Indian coordination committee of the farmers’ movements (SICCFM).

According to Leena Menghaney from the Access campaign of Medecins Sans Frontieres, access to medicines is another area of concern in this FTA.  “The proposed text on intellectual property by the EU includes an extension of the patent term (PTE) by five years, which will extend monopolies on new medicines and keep prices high for an extended period. New TB medicines, on which patents are expiring in the coming year could see extended monopolies. Another demand on IP for exclusivity on data (DE) submitted to the DCGI for up to 11 years could create new monopolies on even off-patent medicines blocking competition and encouraging unethical practices such as the repetition of costly clinical trials”, she says.

The ambitious demands of EU in the area of digital trade including on removing tariffs on e-transmissions, have also been flagged by the group. “The EU also wants free cross-border data flows and the full opening of government data which will challenge India’s sovereign rights over its data and the policy space to use such data for the benefits of Indian communities, workers, small enterprises, start-ups, and so on. Making such concessions to the EU will also have implications for India’s security”, Parminder Jeet Singh, Executive Director of IT for Change, said.

Trade negotiations between the 27-member EU and India got restarted in July 2022. The third round of negotiations got concluded in New Delhi recently. 


Follow us on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.