Tag Archive for: tppa

by People Over Profit

The struggle to stop the Transpacific Partnership Agreement continues amid efforts to revive the zombie free trade deal.

On Nov 11 2017, a new accord between 11 members of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement came out with a ministerial statement calling for the revival of the free trade deal following the exit of the United States. The accord – redubbed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) – reaffirmed the countries’ commitment to free trade and capital flows, and to counter the impacts of years of effective campaign work of peoples’ movements and civil society that has left the credibility of corporate-led free trade deal largely eroded.

The accord will likely put pressure on negotiations for other regional FTAs such as those for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It will also be a welcome impetus for rich countries such as Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, who look forward to the success of the TPP to ensure their economic hegemony.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times has reported that the Department for International Trade in the UK has held informal talks about joining the CPTPP.

There are still many details for the member countries to work out. But the pact does not fundamentally differ from when the US was part of the negotiations through the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

About 20 provisions that were once part of the TPP talks have been “suspended,” according to a joint statement by the agreement’s member countries. There are four sticking points – such as express delivery, biologics, investment, telecommunications, and medical devices – to solve, but experts say a final deal could be achieved by early 2018. Each country would still have to sign and ratify the deal to be a member of the agreement.

Threats to peoples’ rights remain

Most major TPPA provisions are expected to remain despite their changed significance without the US.

Notably, no agricultural commitment appears on the list of suspended provisions. For developing country farmers whose governments are engaged in the negotiations, the threat of dumping of cheap, highly-subsidized agricultural imports of rich industrialized countries remains. This kind of trade distortion puts farmers at risk of losing their fair share of the market and result in the total destruction of their local agricultural production systems.

The CPTPP retains enhanced intellectual property rights for Big Pharmas, making medicines, such as those for HIV/AIDS, expensive. Contrary to the claim that strengthened IPRs are needed to enhance research and development, Medecins Sans Frontiere revealed that research for new medicines has not increased in recent decades despite greatly enhanced IPRs.

The CPTPP does not include enforceable labor standards. Governments that will sign on to the agreement will only commit to implementing their own labor laws and not to recognized international standards, and they are not enforceable in the same way as other chapters in the agreement.

In fact, the CPTPP will further worsen labor conditions for workers of member countries. Malaysian automobile workers will face the threat of unemployment as the Malaysian automobile industry face stiffer competition against Japanese car manufacturers, as the Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed admitted. Competition for employment as evidenced by experience of workers in developing countries results in lowering of wages, benefits, and labor standards.

Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, also condemned the fact that the CPTTP still includes investor-state Dispute Settlement (ISDS).  ISDS gives foreign corporations the right to bypass national courts and sue governments for millions of dollars over domestic laws, which could include labor, health and environmental laws.

Peoples’ resistance continues

Voices critical against the CPTPP continue. Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and co-author of a critical study measuring the employment costs of the original TPP, debunked some of the main myths about the newly named Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP). The deal, he explained, is about the promotion of corporate-friendly rules for foreign investors, rather than trade gains. Strengthening intellectual property monopolies for transnational corporations would ‘undoubtedly’ increase prices, not generate more goods and services.

Meanwhile peoples’ organizations and civil society are gearing up actions to resist TPP and its various incarnations.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) is currently engaged in a signature campaign to urge Australian trade minister Steve Ciobo to not persist with the talks to revive the TPP.

People Over Profit (POP), a global network of social movements against free trade and corporate greed, continue to conduct information dissemination campaigns to help peoples’ movements effectively challenge CPTPP, RCEP, and similar free trade deals.

Our newsletter for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017 is now available. Read on the recent updates on our campaign against RCEP, the anti-war convention in Toronto, the “Zombie TPPA,” and other activities by our network members.

Click on the image below to view and download a copy.


Sign-on Statement on the 28 & 29th ASEAN Summit and the 11th East Asia Summit
August 2016

As the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) holds 28th and 29th summit concurrently with the 11th East Asia Summit (EAS) in Vientiane, Laos from 3-8 September 2016, civil society across Asia Pacific calls attention to the intensifying neoliberal agenda in the region as it seeks integration in the economic, political security, and socio-cultural spheres.

ASEAN Thrust for Neoliberal Integration

The ASEAN’s political thrust is to fully realize a so-called ASEAN Community that is built around three “pillars” namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Looking at the ASEAN Vision 2025 however, the whole framework presents the fundamental problem of a neoliberal economic pillar that drives the whole integration process altogether. The AEC is considered to be the most developed pillar among the three and is meant to further open up ASEAN economies to monopoly capitalist trade and investments.

Under the AEC blueprint, ASEAN economies are expected to become a single market and production base that seeks to facilitate the free flow of goods and skilled labor. But the neoliberal thrust of the AEC however can only aggravate existing inequalities between and within member countries. Countries that stand to gain from the integration are those with higher levels of technology and infrastructure already in place while less developed countries are left with lesser value functions in the global production process. This uneven playing field allows more advanced economies to maintain their position in the upper tier of the value chain as development in weaker economies become increasingly distorted.

Even at the country level, the uneven distribution of gains will exacerbate the wage gap between skilled and unskilled workers, and create fewer employment opportunities for women. The sectors that are expected to experience job growth such as transport and construction are also prone to be informal and vulnerable. In addition, the increased migration of low to medium-skilled workers without their rights properly protected, will subject a greater number of migrant workers to human rights abuses.

As part of ASEAN’s economic integration objectives, a wide range of ‘enhanced’ investment protection measures are now in place. The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) for example allows investors to sue governments over actions that “harm” expected future profits – giving corporations the power to challenge state actions that are meant to protect public welfare and interest, including providing a living wage, implementing agrarian reform, ensuring health and safety of the public from hazards, sound environmental policies, and so on.

In addition, governments are compelled to provide security and protection to investments which must be granted at all times. The so-called ‘investment defense forces’ essentially use military and paramilitary units to protect investor interests and crush local resistance in areas rich in natural resources – the same areas that serve as havens for big mining and logging corporations.

Competing Interests in the Region

Southeast Asia remains an important region in terms of economic and political value. Its combined population of 633 million and an increasing gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.4 trillion[2] make it a hotbed for foreign investment opportunities. Eight of the ten busiest container ports in the world are located in the Asia Pacific region, almost 30 percent of the world’s maritime trade routes pass through the South China/West Philippine Sea every year while around $1.2 trillion worth of products going to the United States transit the region’s sea routes. The rich resources, cheap labor and vital trade routes in the ASEAN region make it a strategic target for United States’ and China’s economic, political and military control.

In this context, the US continues to pursue its strategic pivot to Asia. In efforts to secure its own sphere of influence in the region, it has escalated military operations by deploying tens of thousands of military troops and maintains hundreds of military bases in Asia Pacific. Japan and Korea alone hosts over 80,000 US military personnel – a stark difference from the 65,000 troops currently stationed in Europe and 35,000 deployed in the Middle East[3]. China on the other hand has embarked on a substantial modernization of its maritime military forces and naval capabilities in a bid to enforce its claim in the South China Sea. It has forcibly reclaimed reefs and built airstrips capable of hosting military equipment sparking tensions with competing claimants – the Philippines and Vietnam.

Complementing these militarist and diplomatic advances is a layer of economic offensives which include the push to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – a mega-regional free trade agreement composed of the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries notably excluding China. The TPP is seen to advance favorable conditions for the US to consolidate strategic alliances with ASEAN countries participating in the trade deal: Borneo, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore. Philippines and Thailand have already expressed their desire to join the TPP.

The TPP however does not go unchallenged – as a means to counter US economic offensives, the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is recently gaining steam with a deadline to finish negotiations by the end of 2016. The RCEP excludes the US and covers all ASEAN member states along with China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.  The rise of these two mega-regional FTAs represents the heightening contention between US and China over who sets trade rules in the region and eventually re-orient the Asian supply and value chain to their favor.

It must be made clear however that both agreements pose major threats and equally devastating impacts on people’s rights and sovereignty across the region. Despite the seemingly competing interests between the two trade pacts – it must be pointed out that both the RCEP and the TPP find grounding in, and act as extensions of the WTO (World Trade Organization) framework constituting the neoliberal objective of profit accumulation and the concentration of wealth and resources at the hands of global corporate elites.

This also poses critical problems especially in the context of ASEAN integration as both the TPP and RCEP endorse the ISDS – heavily criticized for favoring corporations. With ISDS already present in the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), inclusion in these trade deals will cement investor’s rights to sue governments and will severely limit ASEAN member states’ right to regulate. Once these agreements come into force, rich countries and their corporations can block national social and environmental protection policies by filing claims in ISDS tribunals and even dictate policies that will bolster corporate profit at the expense of dropping public interest laws leading to the corporate re-colonization of ASEAN economies.

The need for genuine people’s solidarity

Indeed, ASEAN’s model of regional integration operates under the neoliberal economic framework that begets corporate-led incursions posing grave threats to national sovereignty and people’s rights across the region. The proliferation of trade and investment deals within and between ASEAN and global economic superpowers support monopoly capitalism’s insatiable drive for superprofits. Weak domestic industries and agricultural systems are subjected to foreign monopoly control while public services and utilities are gradually taken over. Developing ASEAN states are increasingly forced to compete with each other to attract foreign investment largely through labor repression, flexibilization and wage depression. This direction is further fueled by US interests to reinforce its stronghold in Asia Pacific and counter China’s aggression. At the same time, multinational corporations are increasingly being awarded the freedom to exploit the natural resources of developing economies in the region including their wealth, and labor power under the guise of ‘development’. Militarization spreads across Asia displacing entire populations and subjecting the people, especially women, children and indigenous peoples to violence, threats, harassment and extrajudicial killings.

An alternative to this model of integration must advance each country’s national economic interests free from the dictates of any foreign power. It must essentially do away with the market-led growth framework which ASEAN espouses and is founded upon. As a counterpose to this neoliberal notion of integration, a pro-people alternative must be forged along the principles of solidarity, cooperation and complementarity among states; it must recognize and uphold people’s sovereignty and people’s rights; premised on friendship and peaceful co-existence; it must pursue environmental sustainability and finally, direct the accountability of States and the private sector to the people.

Throughout the region, the people are asserting their sovereignty in various fronts to resist neoliberal and militarist policies. In the Philippines, indigenous Lumad communities remain irrepressible in asserting their right to land and in exposing mining and plantation investment schemes that continue to threaten their ancestral lands with the states use of military and paramilitary forces to protect investor interests. Thousands of farmers in Indonesia are relentless in demanding land ownership that has long been overdue. In Cambodia, women’s garment-workers are fighting for living wages and safe working conditions. Malaysians have conducted mass protests calling for government accountability and clean elections.

All over the region, peoples movements and activists have repeatedly come together to demand ASEAN governments to uphold peoples rights . We are calling on people’s organizations and the CSO community across the region to join Asia Pacific people in resisting the elite-centred ASEAN integration, the rise of militarism and neoliberal trade agreements. ###



Organization Country
Center for Participatory Research and Development -CPRD, Bangladesh
Participatory Research Action Network- PRAN, Bangladesh Bangladesh
Ubinig/ narigrantha Prabartana Bangladesh
Working Group for Peace (WGP) Cambodia
Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) Cambodia
Positive Change for Cambodia (PCC) s Cambodia
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) Hongkong
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants Hongkong
Advasi Navjeewan Gathan navjyoi Agua (ANGNA India
Association for promotion sustainable development. Hisar. India
 Seeds-India India
Resistance and Alternatives on Globalization (RAG) Indonesia
kiribati association of non-government organization – Kiribati
Association for Improving Reading Stadard of Multi-Ethnic People Adapt to Climate Change Laos
CBR Network Malaysia
Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT) (Oppressed peoples movement) Malaysia
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) Malaysia
Committee for Asian Women Malaysia
Metta Development Foundation Myanmar
POINT Myanmar Myanmar
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP( Myanmar) Myanmar
Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma Myanmar
Airavati Myanmar
Burma Partnership Mynamar
Forum for Community Upliftment System (FOCUS Nepal) Dhading Nepal
National Youth Federation Nepal (NYFN) Nepal
NGO-Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN) Nepal
Kirat Youth Society (KYS) Nepal
Kirat Chamling Language Culture Development Association (KCLCDA), Nepal
People Unity Youth Society (PUYS) Nepal
Unity Society Nepal, Nepal
Active Society Nepal (ASN) Nepal
Youth Awareness Society Nepal (YASN) Nepal
Indigenous Nationalities Women Youth Network (INWYN) Nepal
Kirat Chamling Association (KCA) Nepal
Kirat Chamling Youth Society (KCYS) Nepal
Youth NGO-Federation (YNF) Nepal
Indigenous Nationalities Women Network, Makawanpur (INWN) Nepal
Chundevi Society Nepal Nepal
Kirat Chamling Khambatim Nepal
Pacific Islands Association of NGOs New Zealand
Pacific Women’s Indigenous Networks New Zealand
Pacific Regional Language Partnership New Zealand
Vagahau Niue Trust New Zealand
Pacific-New Zealand CSOs Fono New Zealand
Kilusan Para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (KATARUNGAN) Philippines
Freedom from Debt Coalition Philippines
PAHRA Philippines
Focus on the Global South Philippines
Sentro ng mga Ngakakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) Philippines
MASIPAG Philippines
Center for Women’s Resources Philippines
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) Philippines
IBON Foundation Philippines
Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC). Philippines
Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas Philippines
WomanHealth Philippines Philippines
KAMP (Campaign for a Life of Dignity) Philippines
Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines
PINAY(Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec) Canada
Community Development Services (CDS) Sri Lanka
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) Thailand
SCODE Vietnam
Borko Peoples Human Rights Organisation/Borok Indigenous Tribal People Development Center