RCEP fails the Human Rights TestJoin AFTINET

The RCEP fails the human rights test

The  Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations began in 2012 between 16 countries: India China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN countries, which represented half the world's population. 

The RCEP text remained secret until after it was signed, but leaked documents during the negotiations showed that the RCEP could have included corporate rights to sue governments, stronger monopolies on medicines that would delay the availability of cheaper generic medicines, restricted regulation of essential services and allow for more temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation, without any protections for workers’ rights or the environment. We linked with similar campaigns in other countries to oppose these damaging proposals. 

Campaign Achievements: India withdraws and some damaging proposals removed 

In November 2019, 15 governments claimed they had completed the text of the deal, but strong community campaigns from Indian civil society forced the Indian government to withdraw, which reduced its claimed benefits for Australia and other countries. Some of the most damaging clauses like corporate rights to sue governments and stronger medicine monopolies  have been removed.

But the RCEP still fails the human rights test

The text was signed and released on November 15, 2020. Despite gross violation of human rights in Myanmar, China and the Philippines, the RECP  has no commitments to human rights, labour rights or environmental standards, could restrict government regulation of essential services like aged care and restrict government  action for local industry development for economic recovery, There has been no independent study of is costs and benefits, and even the Morrison government doesn't claim that it provides extra markets for Australian exporters.

The RCEP is being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which will report in August 2021 before parliament votes on the enabling legislation.

See a short  explainer article about the RCEP text here and AFTINET's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties here

 

Rich countries are first in line for Covid vaccines because a handful of companies control both the price and quantity

Pharmaceutical company patent monopolies are the elephant in the room in the debate about Covid-19 vaccine shortages in Australia.

Most of debate locally has been about whether the federal government ordered enough vaccine doses last year from Pfizer and other companies. This misses the broader point that a handful of pharmaceutical companies control both the price and quantity of vaccines.

Even in the context of a global pandemic, they can set the terms in closed-door negotiations with rich countries. These companies have already made billions from vaccines which were developed at record speeds and supported with public funds.

Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET Convenor, explains the situation in today's the Guardian online.

National church and civil society groups urge government to support WTO rule change for fair vaccine access for low-income countries

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                         July 19, 2021

An unusually wide range of national church, public health, aid and development and other civil society groups representing millions of Australians today sent the attached open letter to Government Ministers. The letter urges them to support the proposal for a temporary waiver of patent monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that will be discussed at a key meeting of the World Trade Organisation on July 20.

US protests urge German Chancellor Merkel to support trade rule change for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines

July 14, 2021: German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces US protests tomorrow at her government’s opposition to the suspension of 20-year monopoly patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments at the World Trade Organisation. A “die-in” will be staged with a giant Merkel puppet lurking over dozens of body bags representing the millions of lives on the line.

Ask your federal MP to support fair access to vaccines in low-income countries

July 12, 2021: More than 50,000 Australians have signed petitions asking the Australian Government to support changes to trade rules that would help most people in the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines. Negotiations have started and the Australian government still has not done so. We need to increase the pressure and tell our local MPs to support these changes.

MSF slams European Union for stalling WTO process to waive monopolies on COVID-19 products

June 30, 2021: Current trade rules give pharmaceutical companies 20-year monopoly patents on COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products, which are delaying access for low-income countries. This is why over 100 WTO member countries are supporting the South African and Indian proposals for a temporary waiver of these rules during the pandemic.

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