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14 Jul 2019

GRAIN, Bilaterals

Groups fear that RCEP deal of ASEAN and other partners will intensify land grabs

"RCEP trade deal will intensify land grabbing in Asia," 12 July 2019

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed mega-trade agreement that involves 10 countries of Southeast Asia and six of their trading partners...[I]t will change how governments decide on rights to land and who has access to it. Therefore, it has the potential to increase land grabbing across Asia...

...[O]ver 9.6 million hectares of farmland have already been transferred from rural communities to foreign corporations over the last decade...[M]ost of the land grabbers came from other RCEP countries.

...[A]ccording to leaks,...RCEP proposes rules that will facilitate the transfer of lands from small food producers to big agribusiness. These provisions are found in two chapters: the investment chapter and the services chapter...

  • One major rule is called ‘national treatment’...[E]very country must treat the multinational corporations of other RCEP countries as if they were domestic companies...[U]nless they make special exceptions when they sign the text, countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand which currently restrict foreigners’ ability to own farmland will no longer be able to do so...
  • Both chapters also contain ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ clauses. That means that governments have to freeze their current levels of market opening, and if they liberalise more they cannot go back...In the past decade, RCEP countries like Laos and Japan have adopted a raft of legislative changes to remove protections on farmland that small farmers and indigenous communities traditionally enjoyed, exposing them to the takeover of their lands for large-scale corporate farming...
  • RCEP’s investment chapter includes the very controversial ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ mechanism. This will give companies from the RCEP region the right to sue governments where they invest at private arbitration tribunals...This could readily apply to agribusiness and food service industries.

...[W]e must demand:

  • RCEP negotiators must make the full text available to the public for informed public debate...
  • RCEP member governments must have the freedom to restrict investors’ rights to farmland.

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