Commenting on the recent release of the book “Trade Invaders – How big business is driving the EU-India free trade negotiations”, the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) claims that lobbyists from big European and Indian corporations are currently setting the agenda of the forthcoming FTA (Free Trade Agreement) negotiations.
As we reported earlier this year, one of the main concerns raised by civil society groups after the 9th round of FTA negotiations held in Brussels in late April was the risk that IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) clauses included in the text under negotiation would affect patients in third-world countries by increasing the costs of medicines. Though the negotiating parts sustained that no IPR restrictions were being considered for generic drugs, no official commitment or guarantee was given in this respect.
Four months have now passed since the last round of negotiations, with one still to go before the next meeting in India, and there has been total silence on the issue of including safeguard clauses to protect India´s have-nots from IPR restrictions. Even worse, according to CEO´s comments, during all this time private sector lobbyists have been actively pressuring both countries to advance their corporative agendas on the matter.
Every FTA negotiation and trade integration process requires the active commitment and participation of the private sector if it is to succeed and boost bilateral trade flows. However, when such commitment deteriorates into an agenda-setting process and the negotiating governments lose their strategic view, the focus is taken away from the benefits of increased trade for the wider population and the FTA can become an instrument against them.
Co-author of the above mentioned book Pia Eberhardt sustains that “The European Commission and the Indian government have handed the negotiation agenda over to corporate lobby groups, ignoring the needs of their citizens. It is an outrage that two of the world's biggest so-called democracies should behave in this way”.
There is everything to indicate that the EU – India FTA negotiations will be coming to an end in the near future, and thus the 10th round of negotiations to be held in October takes on even greater importance for civil society groups in both countries if citizens are to be protected over and above corporate interests.