Written By mediavigil on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | 4:51 AM



Civil Society Groups Demand Access to Draft Agreement Between Japan & India

New Delhi/29/12/2009: Civil society groups demand that the contents of the proposed comprehensive economic agreement (CEPA) between Japan and India and the detail of lists of goods and commodities in it must be made public. This demand comes in the wake of Japan’s consistent promotion of hazardous technologies like Dioxins machines and its quest for garbage dumps in places which offer least resistance is well known.

Manmohan Singh’s opening remarks at the Joint Press Interaction with his Japanese counterpart on December 29, 2009, “We have decided to expedite our negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in order to conclude a high quality and balanced agreement. We are hopeful that this can be completed in time for the next Annual Summit meeting” has been greeted with worries

There is an apprehension that the proposed CEPA would include lists of toxic waste that are considered goods or commodities. It will justify the definition of waste as non-waste through a re-classification exercise in linguistic corruption flux of hazardous waste from Japan.

The list entails hazardous wastes that are categorized as goods are residual products, sewage sludge, medical waste, waste from chemical or allied industries, vessels, incinerator ash, oil-contaminated products and nuclear waste.

Indian government is currently in the process of negotiating free trade agreements (FTA) or Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)/Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Japanese government which is likely to have adverse impact on health and environment of the citizens. So far twelve rounds of negotiations have been held to conclude a mutually acceptable agreement.

In December, 2006, the Prime Ministers of the Japan and India decided to launch immediate negotiations for the conclusion of a bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement/Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement aiming to complete in substance as soon as possible in approximately two years. It is feared that the agreement is likely to facilitate trade of toxic wastes from Japan to India. Civil society groups have demanded that the hazardous technologies and globally controlled or banned wastes and substances must be excluded from the negotiations in the proposed CEPA. These groups have written letters to both the governments.

At their meeting in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama decided to expedite negotiations on CEPA so as to conclude it by next year. The manner in "main concerns" and need for “resolving the remaining issues” is being talked reveals the non-transparency in the way trade negotiations being held. The CEPA being negotiated is being conducted in secret and the government is doing little to consult public interest groups in these negotiations. Similar agreements with Philippines and Thailand contain provisions allowing the dumping of waste, which is typical of FTAs being negotiated by Japan. Similar agreements negotiated and ratified by Japan with Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have the goal of facilitating trade, and are primarily accomplished by reducing tariffs to zero on selected goods.

Civil society groups are worried that by including toxic wastes and other banned substances in the list of goods enjoying preferential tariffs a market environment is created providing an incentive for waste traders to step in and exploit.

Japan has been trying to make UN's Basel Convention[i], and its Basel Ban Amendment[ii] to become ineffective so that it can transfer hazardous wastes by defining it as hazardous materials (meant for recycling) in the CEPA. The connivance of Indian officials in such acts of manufacturing legitimacy for hazardous waste trade is unpardonable. Notably, Indian Supreme Court has banned the trade in hazardous wastes but its orders are being violated with impunity and the agreement is yet another way to outwit the court order.

In Indian case too quite like the Filipinos, the draft CEPA is not being shared with the public interest groups. Once the agreement is signed between the two countries there would be no way of getting critiques of the treaty considered. Negotiations between India and Japan are conducted under a veil of secrecy.

The civil society groups reiterate their demands to both Japanese and Indian officials which are as under: All listings of toxic technology and internationally controlled or banned wastes and substances are expunged from tariff reduction provisions and other exploitative provisions are removed from CEPA and for this condition to be added to the Terms of Reference of the negotiations, Ratification of the Basel Convention's Ban Amendment is accomplished by the two countries at the earliest possible date, Civil society groups are accorded representation and participation in the ongoing negotiations of CEPA, and be given access to all relevant information pertaining to the CEPA negotiations, CEPA negotiations are made open and transparent and a serious program to prevent hazardous and other wastes at source via toxics use reductions, stopping planned obsolescence should be part of CEPA, as well as holding Japanese and Indian manufacturers accountable for the products they produce.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogpsot.com

Notes: [i] The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and its Disposal comprises of 169 member countries to date. The Convention requires all countries to take national responsibility for managing their own waste within their own national borders, as well as setting rules on exports that must take place. The , and has passed numerous decisions forbidding exports of hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries. See: www.basel.int.

[ii] Formally known as Decision III/1, the Basel Ban Amendment was passed in 1995 which prohibits the exports, for disposal or recycling, of hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries.
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