Civil society orgs. argue Asia-Pacific trade agreement likely to have adverse impact on labour rights, access to medicines, food & healthcare, if ratified

Author: Pavan Kulkarni, News Click (India), Published on: 26 July 2018

"Organizations oppose Secretive Negotiations Around RCEP Trade Agreement", 20 Jul 2018

With the 23rd round of negotiations of the mega free trade agreement – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)...representatives of nearly 80 civil society organizations...gathered in Bangkok...to oppose the provisions in the agreement...These provisions are likely to have an adverse impact on...access to medicines, food, healthcare, control over national resources and labor rights.  The trade agreement, expected to be signed in November this year by 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region...is likely to end up as one of most secretively drafted agreements...While parliamentarians and civil society have been left with little say, large businesses have been provided with disproportionate access...[T]he agreement...contains a number of provisions which would bring enormous benefits to big businesses at the cost of the people...

One such provision is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which allows foreign companies to sue the governments in arbitration courts abroad for passing laws and regulations that might reduce the profits expected by them during investment...Even if these cases are won by the governments, the cost involved is enormous...RCEP also pushes governments to privatize services, including essential ones such as provision of education, healthcare, electricity...Even the regulation of prices of essential services...can be compromised...As a result of lobbying by big pharmaceutical and agro-chemical industries, the Japanese and South Korean governments have pushed for intellectual property (IP) provisions in RCEP...[T]he extension of IP laws to agro-chemical industries coerces governments to criminalize the act of saving seeds of commercial varieties by farmers...Calling for an assessment of the impact RCEP will have on human rights, Indonesian MP Mercy Barends warned that this trade agreement, if ratified “will have drastic consequences on people’s rights, particularly in Southeast Asia.”

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