New Delhi: As Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a blistering attack on the government on the state of the economy, saying that signing the RCEP agreement will result in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises, Union minister Piyush Goyal asked her where she was when her government had agreed to explore an India-China FTA in 2007. “I hope former PM Dr Manmohan Singh will speak up against this insult to him.”

 

Addressing a meeting at the AICC headquarters, Sonia Gandhi alleged that instead of acknowledging the “severe slowdown” and looking for a comprehensive resolution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is too busy “managing headlines and events”. “As a citizen and as a member of the responsible opposition, it pains me to see the Indian economy under siege. What is even more worrying is that the government is in complete denial,” Gandhi said.

In a sharp comeback, Goyal said, “Where was Sonia Gandhi Ji where her government opened 74% of its market to ASEAN countries but richer countries like Indonesia opened only 50% for India? Why did she not speak against giving larger concessions to richer countries?”

“Where was Soniaji when her govt forced India to join RCEP negotiations with China in 2011-12? When FTA with ASEAN was signed in 2010? When FTA with South Korea was signed in 2010? When FTA with Malaysia was signed in 2011? When FTA with Japan was signed in 2011?”

“Sonia Gandhi Ji has suddenly woken up to RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and FTAs (Free Trade Agreements). So, where was she when trade deficit with RCEP nations increased from $7 Billion in 2004 to $78 Billion in 2014?”

“PM Narendra Modi Ji has highlighted that RCEP must be a win-win. We too would like a win-win outcome. We believe that for this, addressing our concerns over unsustainable trade deficits is important,” Goyal added.

Sonia Gandhi said this would result in untold hardship for farmers, shopkeepers.

The prime minister will attend India-ASEAN summit, East Asia Summit and the RCEP Summit during his stay in Thailand from November 2-4. If finalised, the RCEP deal will facilitate the creation of the biggest free-trade region in the world as the 16-nation grouping is home to 3.6 billion people or nearly half the world’s population.

(With Agency Inputs)