NEW DELHI/ HYDERABAD: The government on Monday said it will not sign free trade agreements, which in reality were “trade deals with China by stealth”, with foreign minister S Jaishankar slamming some of India’s earlier treaties.
A day after the signing of RCEP to create the world’s largest trade bloc, Jaishankar said that in the name of openness, India had allowed subsidised products and unfair production advantages from abroad to prevail in the country. Going ahead, whatever India decides now will determine whether the country will become a first-class industrial power or not in the future, he said. A year ago, India had walked out of RCEP, arguing that its interests were not being adequately protected, amid fears that the trade agreement will open the floodgates to cheap Chinese imports.
The external affairs minister’s statement came even as the commerce department appeared to be more upfront in blaming the trade agreement with Asean members and suggested that the treaty allowed China to route its goods to India, using third countries. It also blamed the “flawed negotiations” during the UPA regime for the flood of imports.
“India is already suffering huge trade imbalance and market distortions with these countries, that have negatively impacted domestic producers and the Indian economy,” a government source said. The department, responsible for trade negotiations, also reiterated the government’s stand on exploring agreements with the US and the European Union. “These are developed countries with large markets, and Indian products and services will actually be competitive here unlike Asean,” the source said.