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TUC warns against Britain-India trade deal until widespread human rights abuses are addressed

THE British government should not “entertain”  the notion of a trade deal with India until widespread human rights abuses have been dealt with, the TUC said today as talks with Indian officials began.

Tory International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan visited New Delhi to officially open negotiations on a “new ambitious free trade deal with the world’s biggest democracy.”

The agreement, part of a bid for a so-called global “five-star year of trade,” could boost transactions by up to £28 billion a year by 2035 and give a £3 billion boost to wages across Britain, ministers claim.

However, campaigners warned that human rights have been increasingly trampled on since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide general election victory in 2014.

His government’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which excludes Muslims from an amnesty for illegal immigrants, has been widely condemned, as has a brutal crackdown on farmers protesting against agriculture reforms.

More than 600 demonstrators are thought to have died in the year-long campaign, which ended in November when Mr Modi was forced to back down and promise to repeal the legislation. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that the negotiations in New Delhi were “another example of the UK government hurtling into trade talks with a country that has a terrible record on human rights and workers’ rights.

“Suppressing trade unions, forced labour, child labour and other workers’ rights abuses are all widespread in India.” 

The deal could encourage British companies to outsource more jobs to the subcontinent, leading to a “race to the bottom,” Ms O’Grady warned, as well as deepening gender inequalities and threatening Indian food security through cheap imports. 

“The UK government should be using its leverage on the global stage to promote decent work,” she said, adding: “It’s time for ministers to act to stop serious rights abuses.”

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