Stop RCEP. Trade for the People. Not for Corporate Elites
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People Over Profit | 6 March 2017

Stop RCEP. Trade for the People. Not for Corporate Elites

As trade ministers from the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal converged in Kobe, Japan, the People Over Profit network strongly opposes the RCEP and warns of impending threats on people’s rights across Asia Pacific.

The RCEP Kobe meeting is the first round of negotiations this year since US President Donald Trump announced the cancellation of the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Amid the growing discontent over neoliberal trade deals across the globe, proponents of the TPP such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand continue to push for TPP+ provisions on investment, intellectual property, and state-owned enterprises into the RCEP texts. Efforts to revive the ‘TPP zombie’ by putting in place greater measures to protect investments through ISDS and intellectual property rights over medicines only exposes the same neoliberal agenda governing RCEP and the TPP among other trade deals in the offing.

Proposals to include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the RCEP investment chapter will threatenpeople’s sovereignty. The ISDS protects investors’ profits at the expense of people’s rights by limiting the State’s capacity to regulate. Once enforced, corporations would be at liberty to pollute our water sources, grab farmers’ and indigenous peoples’ lands, and violate workers’ rights with impunity – towards consolidating transnational corporate control over labor and natural resources.

Greater protection on intellectual property rights beyond existing standards would mean an affront to farmers’ rights to seed and land, and the people’s right to health. Current draft texts present worrying proposals on IPR that would extend corporate monopoly control over seeds and medicines. This will give corporations the liberty to dictate prices of life-saving medicines as well as patented agricultural outputs effectively restricting public access.

Despite efforts of civil society organizations (CSOs) to demand transparency, RCEP negotiations remain shrouded in secrecy. During the Kobe round of talks, two stakeholder consultations were organized upon the strong insistence of Japanese CSOs. While these spaces for interaction are always welcome, these consultations however do not provide concrete mechanisms to ensure that people’s demands and concerns are discussed by negotiators. More importantly, there remains no official RCEP negotiating text available for public scrutiny.

The long-running peoples’ demands for living wages, land distribution, access to free, accessible medicines, public healthcare and education will never be addressed by trade deals such as the RCEP. In contrast, the dire conditions of the world’s poor and marginalized are all set to intensify if RCEP becomes enforced. In this light, we call on people’s movements and CSOs across Asia Pacific to mobilize against RCEP and fight for a pro-people trading system that responds to people’s needs, not to corporate elites.

People Over Profit! Stop RCEP! Fight FTAs!