Tag Archive for: trade

Carrying placards calling for the rejection of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), activists managed to slip past the tight security of Nusa Dua Complex in Bali, Indonesia to conduct a protest in front of the Bali International Convention Center where the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee is holding its 25th negotiation round.

Joining the protest were members of Front Mahasiswa Nasional (FMN/National Students’ Front), Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua (Papuan Student Alliance), Serikat Perempuan Indonesia (SERUNI/Indonesian Women’s Union), and People Over Profit – Indonesia.

Inside the convention center representatives of people’s organizations and civil society organizations are delivering their statements in a Stakeholder Dialogue with trade negotiators. The delegates echoed the key messages on issues discussed during the CSO forum held prior to the meeting.

Retno Dewi representing Indonesian women’s group SERUNI minced no words in criticizing the conduct of negotiations for the trade pact. “You have kept us blind; you have kept the details of this deal a secret. For that reason alone, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or RCEP deserves an unequivocal rejection from women, and all the other sectors here present now,” Dewi said.

Andrew Zarate of APRN slammed the evident corporate interests behind the new trade deal. According to Zarate “signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will further seal the control of ASEAN economies by the few powerful corporate elites that influenced most of RCEP’s chapters.”

RCEP will galvanize labor contractualization schemes, push down wages, and erode labor standards won by the workers themselves. RCP will destroy what’s left of our local industries resulting to forced migration and labor export.

“In this same chapter, corporations would weild the power to sue our governments in investor-state dispute settlement tribunals, question laws that promote people’s welfare, and when they win, reap billions from people’s taxes,” he added.

Kartini Samon of GRAIN aired her group’s opposition to RCEP’s intellectual property (IP) provisions that would target seeds and other agricultural products. According to Samon RCEP’s IP chapters would only “benefit the seed industry and systematically eliminate local seeds and create dependence of farmers on the seed industry, and create indebtedness.”

The Indonesia AIDS Coalition raised their concern on the proposed extension of patents for life-saving medicines which would inevitably cut or immensely delay the supply of affordable generic medicines.

Another big concern are the provisions on e-commerce which would consolidate the monopoly of tech giants over digital technologies, infrastructure, services, and data. Leaked text of RCEP’s e-commerce provisions reveal that it closely resembles those in the recently signed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) whose provisions generally reflected the demands of U.S. digital monopolies.

Proposals would allow service suppliers to transfer and process data offshore which include personal and commercial information, this would disarm governments from policing the use, sale and abuse of those data. Furthermore, governments cannot require service providers to use or locate their computing facilities within the client country, discouraging governments to invest in their country’s local digital infrastructure. Restrictions against giving preferences to local firms that develop content using local knowledge and cultural content are also being negotiated.

As governments race to finish negotiations before the year ends, people’s organizations and civil society groups across the region commit to sustain their vigilance and remain at the forefront of opposing the trade deal.

In a students’ forum on RCEP held in Bali’s Udayana University, youth leader Thofu Ajaa of FMN, pledged to conduct more activities to raise the public’s awareness on RCEP and other similar neoliberal trade agreements and economic policies. “Building a popular movement must start from exposing the adverse impacts of neoliberal economic policies on people’s lives and livelihood. The youth must help in all efforts to expose pro-corporate and anti-people trade deals and policies, and to mobilize thousands to oppose them,” said Ajaa.

Watch SERUNI’s Intervention at the RCEP TNC Stakeholder Meeting below:

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Intervention of Retno Dewi (SERUNI)

Intervention of Retno Dewi (SERUNI)

Cross-regional mega-FTAs are now being preferred over bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements as imperialist powers compete for cheap labor, sources of raw materials, and markets. Workers of the South are set to bear much of the brunt of this shift, as new sets of trade rules would further permit monopoly capitalists to dictate the cheapest value of labor and other production facilities, and disregard decent standards, to accumulate bigger profit.

Download EILER’s briefer “Mega-FTAs and its implications on Asian Workers” written by Rochel Porras and Otto de Vries to read more on the potential impacts of RCEP and other mega-FTAs on the region’s labor sector. Get a copy here.

After 22 negotiation rounds and several missed deadlines, the 10 ASEAN countries and their 6 free trade partners will meet again in July 2018 to try and move forward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

While India’s hard stance on certain issues like tariff reduction has been a big factor in slowing down the past negotiations, it is unlikely that it will withdraw from the pact, and reject new trade rules that will be detrimental to its people, including giving up its role as Asia’s pharmacy of affordable, generic life-saving drugs.

In this paper, Ajay Kumar Jha of the Center for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society discusses the possible impacts of RCEP on the people and livelihood of India.

Download the briefer here.

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.


aprn2qAPRN’s newsletter for the second quarter of 2016 is now available. This quarter’s issue covers:

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) campaigns, negotiations, updates
  • APRN’s participation at the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF)
  • AP-RCEM’s contribution to HLPF
  • APRN 2016 Biennial Conference happening on 3-4 November in Beirut, Lebanon
  • Statements in support of South Korea’s opposition to the deployment of a US missile defense system, Japanese resistance to US military bases, and other updates.

Download a free copy here.

More than 80 representatives from trade unions, peasant communities, indigenous peoples, health networks, and women’s organisations met on 27-28 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to strategize around how to defeat the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and other emerging mega-regional free trade agreements (FTAs) in the region.

The RCEP is considered one of the largest trade deals in the world covering half of the world’s population and almost 40% of the global economy. It is set to be finalized by 2017 and is currently being negotiated among 16 member states including all 10 ASEAN countries and 6 of its major trading partners (China, India, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea).

‘Beyond Investment Protection’

With negotiations held in secret, the little that is publicly known about the RCEP comes from recent draft texts. “While corporate lobbies are invited to advise government officials, ordinary citizens who will live with the consequences have no say whatsoever,” said Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The leaked texts reveal that RCEP deals with more than just trade – a large portion of the agreement is designed to give rich countries and their corporations the power to delve into non-trade issues such as investment and intellectual property while diminishing the right of states to regulate in the name of public interest. “These so-called ‘investment protection measures’ in RCEP and other FTAs in the offing are already beyond mere protection of investor interests. It is increasingly becoming deliberate attacks on people’s rights and sovereignty driven by the capitalist thirst for profit and control,” said Marjorie Pamintuan, General Secretary of the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN).

Included in the RCEP investment chapter are provisions on the notorious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – an investor-state arbitration system that allows corporations to sue states over actions detrimental to expected future profits. Currently, there are 696 known ISDS cases filed by corporations against 107 countries and the numbers are rapidly increasing. These cases broadly interpret investor rights to the extent that corporations can easily challenge state policies that are meant to protect public welfare, including providing a living wage, implementing agrarian reform, ensuring health and safety of the public from hazards, sound environmental policies, and so on.

Peoples Rights under Attack

The currently negotiated RCEP will impact 3.5 billion people including those in least developed countries and its most vulnerable sectors. “The RCEP favors rich countries and their corporations, not peasants and the poor. RCEP will facilitate intensified land grabbing and allow corporate monopoly control over seeds further depriving peasants and small farmers their right to land and food security,” said Rhoda Gueta of the Asian Peasant Coalition.

Based on the leaked chapter on intellectual property rights, Japan and Korea are pushing for RCEP member countries to join the UPOV 1991 (International Convention for the Protection of new Varieties of Plants). The UPOV 1991 is a set of common standards that impose rules on how countries should implement plant variety protection – a scheme that favors seed companies at the expense of farmer’s rights to seed. Another proposal aims to criminalize seed saving by imposing criminal sanctions for carrying seeds across borders without due authorization from patent rights holders.

The leaked chapter on IP also reveals that South Korea and Japan are pushing for provisions on data exclusivity and extended patent rights that would allow big pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the drug market and keep charging high prices without generic competition. This becomes a grave concern for the region especially with India being the world’s largest producer of cheap, life-saving medicines. Once RCEP is enforced, access to affordable medicines for the world’s poorest people will be seriously compromised.


During the strategy meeting, participants discussed the implications of RCEP on people’s rights as well as how it differs from other mega –FTAs such as the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). “ASEAN is pushing the corporate agenda through RCEP. Countries part of the TPP are using RCEP to push US-designed ‘WTO-plus’ provisions onto the remaining RCEP members which will only perpetuate inequalities,” said Joan Salvador from GABRIELA, a national alliance of women in the Philippines.

While RCEP is largely considered as a ‘subtler’ version of the TPP by providing lesser demands for liberalization, the China-led trade deal contains intellectual property provisions that are even worse than the TPP and the WTO by extending patent rights beyond domestic laws and international norms.

“The RCEP and the TPP are both extensions of the WTO framework – designed to concentrate wealth at the hands of global corporate elites,” said Beverly Longid from the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL). “Neither the US-led TPP nor the China-led RCEP will address the long-standing demand for an international trading system that responds to people’s needs,” she added.###

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional trade deal that covers half of the world’s population, 38% of the world economy and nearly 30% of the world’s trade volume. The 16-nation RCEP negotiations formally began in 2013 comprised of the 10 ASEAN Member states at its core along with 6 of its major trading partners (China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India).With the rapid growth of China, India and Indonesia’s economies however, the combined GDP of RCEP member countries can potentially amount to double the size of TPP economies by 2050.

Often referred to as a “trade” pact, the RCEP deals with more than just trade – a large portion of the agreement will give rich countries and their corporations power to delve into non-trade issues that have far-reaching implications across sectors and communities. Covering half of the world’s population and containing provisions that are even worse than the TPP and the WTO, the impact of this mammoth trade deal on the environment, labor, agriculture, investment, intellectual property, etc. will be nothing like we’ve ever seen before.

APRN_RCEP Infographic