The Congress claimed credit for India's decision to distance itself from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on Monday, saying that its "forceful opposition" prevented the BJP government from putting the interests of the country's farmers, fishermen and small traders at stake.
"As BJP and Amit Shah indulge in fake credit seeking today, let them remember that it was the Congress' forceful opposition that made them back down," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, terming it as a victory for those safeguarding national interests.
Mr Surjewala claimed that signing the RCEP would have been catastrophic, given that the country was already suffering from "rampant unemployment, a sinking economy and deep agrarian crisis emanating from utter mismanagement of economy" under the BJP government. "But by backing down at the behest of the Congress party and farmer groups, our government has been forced to take a correct decision," he said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the government was all set to sign the RCEP agreement with pomp and show but had to stall its decision after farmers unitedly opposed it and did not allow their hard work and national interests to be bartered to foreign companies and countries. "The BJP government after crushing farmers' interests, was going to hand over the national interests of India to foreign countries by signing the RCEP agreement (anti-farmer agreement) with pomp and show. But, the farmers of the country opposed it with complete unity," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
India had decided against joining the RCEP, the world's largest free trade pact with the participation of 16 nations, over concerns that it did not address issues related to market access and tariffs.
Government sources said India's stand at the RCEP was a reflection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strong leadership and the country's rising stature.
The Congress, however, claimed that the Modi government was pushing to sign the RCEP agreement without addressing "genuine concerns" of the people. "India's farmers and MSMEs had genuine unaddressed concerns about the circumvention of rules of origin to dump Chinese goods; absence of safeguards to prevent against import surges at the cost of domestic industry; no assurance on market access for the service and IT industry," he said.
"'Make in India' has become 'Buy from China'. Each year we import Rs. 6,000 worth of goods from China for every Indian! A 100 per cent increase since 2014," former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had tweeted on Monday. "RCEP will flood India with cheap goods, resulting in millions of job losses & crippling the Indian economy," he wrote.
However, there were indications that the 16 other nations may proceed without India to announce a provisional agreement amid trade tensions between China and the US. The deal is expected to be signed next year.
(With inputs from PTI)