Among many other things that we find contentious in the RCEP is the proposed push for a fair and equitable treatment clause which is highly biased towards investors and a clear threat to the rights of governments to regulate and strengthen regulatory approaches that support their peoples and countries’ national development goals.
A fair and equitable treatment clause in the RCEP will impact grassroots sectors as FET will restrict the use of disciplines such as local content sourcing requirements that protect socially sensitive sectors such as small and medium business and smalholder farmers. FET will stunt rather than promote domestic industries with its insistence of national treatment for transnational corporations and the elimination of critical support systems and preferential policies given to small and medium enterprises. Finally, FET will prevent governments from putting in place measures related to ensure public interest and welfare, as it will prioritize the “legitimate expectations” of business for their investments, rather than the rights and welfare of the people.
Concrete lived experiences of sectors that APRN and POP work with testify that RCEP will have devastating consequences for smallholder farmers, like in the Philippines, where small-scale farming has become unsustainable and farmers have been forced to migrate to urban centers, where they will become informal settlers and beggars relying on cash doleouts from the government to subsidize the purchase of what is often imported food, instead of harvesting their own. Closure of small, medium, and even some bigger local enterprises will result in the swelling of the ranks of unemployed workers competing for precarious and low-waged jobs. Governments will be pushed to dismantle, under the threat of an investor dispute case, for instance, financial regulatory schemes that have been put in place in the wake of the global economic crisis in 2008.
Rather than embracing the extreme deregulation model of RCEP, APRN and POP encourage installing requirements that will ensure that foreign capital helps build linkages in, and strengthen the local economy, and promote technology transfer and know-how, and enhance effectiveness and accountability mechanisms on foreign investments to protect the people and the environment.
The peoples of Asia Pacific have long suffered from devastating consequences of decades of neoliberal trade. We challenge our negotiators to go down to the grassroots, learn from their struggles, and listen to their demands.
Thank you very much!