Stakeholder Intervention at 19th RCEP negotiations round- Kartini Samon from GRAIN

IMG_20170725_143457Good afternoon honorable negotiators from 16 RCEP countries, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all thank you for the space and time given.

My name is Kartini Samon from GRAIN, a small international organization that works with farmers’ and others in support of community and biodiversity based agriculture. As part of the civil society network amongst RCEP member countries; we are here today to express our concerns with the increase importance of RCEP.

RCEP is currently the largest free trade agreements being negotiated in terms of people who will be affected; there are 3.4 billion populations among the 16 RCEP countries, including 420 million small scale farmers that produce 80 percent of food in this region. The secrecy of this negotiation made us civil society group only able to try understand and analyse how RCEP would affect farmers and food productions in the region from several leaks draft dated in 2015.

Since 2008 to date there’s already 9.6 million hectares of farmland in RCEP countries are being transfer to foreign companies and investment funds. Most RCEP countries do not allow foreigners to buy farmland, but RCEP could have a decisive impact on access to land. The Propose ‘national treatment’ rule will gives foreign investors the same rights to purchase farmland as domestic investors, unless the government carves out a special exception for this. If governments do not make reservations on these provisions for farmland, RCEP could seriously aggravate land grabbing in the region and sabotage agrarian reform processes that are currently under way in some RCEP member countries.

This will affects agriculture production in the region. As we are all here today in India, we need to remind ourselves that this is home for over 100 million small scale farmers who are already facing such grave implications from the burden of debt. Costs of production are going up while prices paid to farmers are going down, driving many small farmers into dire straits. RCEP will make things much worse by opening high levels of ‘market access’ for large scale agribusiness like New Zealand dairy giant a vis a vis with backyard dairy producers for example.

The proposal to deliver a deal that immediately cuts tariffs to zero on 92% of trade in goods will affect small scale farmers that could not compete with dumping of cheap import produce from large exporter countries like Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand. Experience from ASEAN FTAs with their trading partners gives clear evidence, Indonesia farmers could not compete with cheaper imported garlic and potatoes from China, or India vegetable oil farmers can not compete with cheap oil palm from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Instead of granting new powers and privileges to corporations, government need to actively support local communities who are trying to achieve food sovereignty rooted in their own control over their seeds, land, knowledge and water. We need to keep out from this harmful agreement, and we also urge that RCEP negotiation process be made transparent and to release the text that are being negotiate to allow people to understand what at stake. Thank you for your attention.

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