Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an offshoot of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP government at the Centre was never interested in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, but "bureaucrats have gone beyond the instructions of the political leadership."
Ashw Mahajan, co-convenor of the SJM, which is holding countrywide protest against the RCEP, told : "We know that the government and the political leadership in the government were never interested in the RCEP. It was announced by various ministers starting from then Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Piyush Goyal."
Mahajan claimed that Sitharaman had categorically said that India would not go for the RCEP and this decision was conveyed to the bureaucracy and the negotiators.
"Then Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu was also not in favour of the RCEP. He had directed to conduct a study on the impact of FTAs by three agencies. But the report of that study has not yet come. Even Goyal has said several times the RCEP is not a win-win situation for India's domestic industry," he said.
Mahajan said the political leadership was very clear but it was "unfortunate that our negotiators and the bureaucrats have gone beyond the instructions of the political leadership."
"That is the reason this situation was created. Now, the Central government has proposed that the RCEP is not acceptable in its present shape. The government has raised our concerns and said if these concerns are not addressed, it will be difficult for India to enter into negotiations at the RCEP," he said.
The SJM leader said the government's move at the RCEP was "encouraging" and cautioned from falling into "any trap".
"International agreements may happen at any date but if our domestic industry is finished, it will have a huge impact on India's food security. We are confident and we have full belief in the present leadership that they will take cognizance of the present situation. In any case, if it happens it will be disastrous for the country," he said.
The RCEP is a mega free trade agreement of 10 ASEAN countries with their six FTA partners -- India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The pact aims to cover the trade in goods and services, as well as investment, intellectual property and dispute resolution.
The SJM has demanded that the government must not sign RCEP, claiming that it would push the present and future generations to joblessness and poverty.
The SJM is protesting across the country, from October 10-20 in all the district centres. The activists will submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Modi through the District Magistrate (DM) in each district.
"We have a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan and South Korea. We are proposing more FTAs with New Zealand and Australia. The only bigger elephant in the room is China. We don't have an FTA with China. We don't even want to have any such agreement with it," said Mahajan.
He said that India was already facing a huge trade deficit with China, which was US dollar 63 billion in 2017-18.
"It came down to nearly 54 billion US dollars in 18-19. Chinese goods are in the Indian market. They are killing our industry and killing jobs. Our experience with the ASEAN and other countries has not been very good so far. We are making every possible effort to curb imports from China and curb trade deficit with Bejing," added Mahajan.
( With inputs from ANI )