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Need to study TTP clauses properly, says top official

Posted on Aug 12 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 12 : The "cloak of confidentiality" surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with most of its text shrouded in secrecy makes it imperative for India to know its clauses before negotiating to join the mega free trade arrangement, a top official said Tuesday.

Some quarters feel it can endanger India's food security, medicines for the people and other welfare measures. So it is important to read the clauses, the official said.

Sujata Mehta, secretary economic relations in the ministry of external affairs, said the "high standards" that the mega FTA will impose on participating nations "will have a cascading effect" on countries and enforce challenges.

The TPP is a regional free trade agreement being negotiated by 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific region - Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam.

The proposed accord would cover nearly 40 percent of global economic output and one-third of all world trade. Passage of the TPP is one of the primary goals of the current US administration's trade agenda.

"The TPP will create the largest FTA, the entire world will trade in goods and services. The implications are wide, and there is need to understand the issues that are pertinent," Mehta said at a talk on 'Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Its impact on India and Developing Nations' organized by the CII.

She said that with the TPP setting "Gold Standards" or very high standards among member countries of goods and services, it would set in motion private standards that "would keep evolving upwards, as well as standards by reference... And may take on a normative or descriptive character".

She said this fact "needs to be understood with a degree of caution". The FTA could also lead to a regime where states "may be made to accept restrictions through trade instrumentalities which they otherwise do not accept".

While older trade deals are based on negotiations based on consensus, "TPP offers the opposite - that the aspirational goal would be the highest common factor... From our point of view, for countries like India which encompass a range of diversity, which exceeds that of other countries, and where one-third of the people may require special protection, what the high quality trade deal offers by way of protections, we need to be aware of and to flag and address," she said.

"India needs to rise to the challenges," she said adding that India may not have a choice but to join the mega trade deal keeping in mind larger strategic and geo-political interests.

Keeping in mind the US pivot towards Asia, "can India afford to neglect the importance of global trade that the TTP and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) represent? We need to achieve a delicate balance to get the best out of it," she said.

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