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Groups fear erosion of workers' rights in ASEAN's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact

Author: Kalinga Seneviratne, IDN-Indepth News, Published on: 5 August 2018

"Asia's evolving 'free' trade deal may not benefit workers," 03 August 2018

A Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) — a “free” trade agreement between the 10 Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and its major trading partners in the region — is expected to be signed later this year. But labor unions and workers’ rights advocates in the region fear that the secretive six-year negotiations will further erode workers’ rights in the Asian region, while strengthening the hands of investors who may even be able to sue governments for changing laws such as setting minimum wages, that would erode their profitability.

This push for so-called “free trade” that is supposed to bring further prosperity to the Asian region, is coming at a time when labor rights activists are being harassed by companies, arrested by police when they mount protest actions and have their houses are attacked at night by unidentified parties where police have refused to come to their aid.

While governments tend to pay scant attention to workers’ needs and their demands, the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights has called for transparency in their governments’ negotiations for a RCEP.

“We need to open up the negotiations to public scrutiny and parliamentary oversight,” argues Tomasito Villarin, a member of parliament from the Philippines. “We call on all our governments to commission cost-benefit analysis of the final RCEP draft that will be made public before any agreement is signed.”


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