RCEP must not be another TPP, say 316 regional civil society groups

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should not be used as a model for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)*, 316 civil society organisations from across the Asia Pacific have warned as the sixteenth round of negotiations begin this week in Indonesia.

In a letter to trade ministers and negotiators (below), the organisations wrote that attempts to “import TPP texts into the RCEP” should be rejected.

“It is clear that the TPP has been soundly rejected by the American people and there has also been widespread opposition to it in other TPP countries on both sides of the Pacific.

“We call upon the governments participating in the RCEP to recognize this critical moment and not to bring the toxic content of the TPP into the RCEP.”

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said leaked documents confirm that many of the worst TPP provisions have been proposed in various RCEP chapters.

“The RCEP includes rules that give more rights to corporations at the expense of people and the planet, and restrict governments from regulating in the public interest,” said Dr Ranald.

“For example, there is a push to include TPP-like medicine monopolies which will allow pharmaceutical companies to charge higher prices for longer, threatening access to lifesaving medicines across the Asia Pacific.

“There are also proposals to give foreign investor rights to sue governments (ISDS), despite overwhelming opposition to this unfair system. Cases against health, environment and other public interest legislation continue to increase and even the threat of an ISDS case has been enough for governments to abandon new policies.

“Ultimately these proposals were so unpopular with the public that the TPP fell over, despite many years of painstaking negotiations.

“Our leaders must not make the same mistake again: RCEP negotiations should be open and transparent and the deal should focus on creating fairer trade rules to benefit people and the planet.

“Trying to push through TPP provisions under a different name simply will not work.”

*The RCEP includes 10 ASEAN countries plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand

_________________________________________________________________Civil Society Open letter to Governments in the 16 RCEP Countries

Dear Trade Ministers & Negotiators from the RCEP countries, 

Subject: TPP rules in RCEP must be rejected

This is an urgent call by 316 civil society organisations from across the Asian and Pacific countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes the 10 ASEAN Member States with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

This letter comes at a very important political moment, when in the aftermath of the US elections it seems clear that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will not be ratified by the USA, in spite of its big push since February 2016 when the agreement was signed by the 12 countries.

It is clear that the TPP has been soundly rejected by the American people and there has also been widespread opposition to it in other TPP countries on both sides of the Pacific. According to the TPP text, if the US does not ratify it, the TPP cannot come into force.

The current negotiations in RCEP are complicated by the fact that there are 6 countries which are part of the TPP and there have been many attempts to import TPP texts into RCEP and sometimes even an attempt to go beyond the TPP. A few examples below bear testimony to how TPP wording is being proposed in RCEP.

  • In the investment chapter, apart from a few safeguards, all the TPP’s substantive and main investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions have been proposed in the leaked RCEP investment chapter.
  • In services, for example, all the substantive TPP telecommunications chapter rules have been proposed in RCEP according to the leaked RCEP text.
  • In RCEP’s leaked draft e-commerce terms of reference, all the TPP ecommerce chapter rules appear to be proposed and all the RCEP ecommerce ideas appear to come from the TPP, therefore proposing an exact match of the texts
  • In the leaked RCEP intellectual property (IP) chapter, Japan, South Korea and some others are pushing many of the main substantive stronger IP provisions of the TPP

With the demise of the TPP, there is no justification for adhering to the TPP texts in RCEP because these have no mandate. This is even more irrational in the absence of the TPP as Asian countries (including least developed countries (LDCs)) would end up carrying the load that other rich countries in the TPP (US, Canada) will not have to bear any more.

The RCEP texts which have leaked so far have many fundamental problems that will negatively impact all sectors of society in RCEP countries. [1]

We call upon the governments participating in the RCEP, to recognize this critical moment and not to bring the toxic content of the TPP into the RCEP and instead to stop the RCEP negotiations.

We urge you to revisit the trade relations between the 16 countries. A new model must be based on cooperation and not competition, one that puts the development needs of the region above that of corporations, and puts people and the environment at its centre, that recognizes economic policy can work only if it is inclusive, not only in terms of the impact on different constituencies but also if it integrates the social and environmental concerns of the world.

Sincerely,

Signatory civil society organisations*

 

*Please see PDF for full list.

 

 

 

Dr Patricia Ranald

Convener, Australian FairTrade and Investment Network

 

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