RCEP fails the Human Rights TestJoin AFTINET

The RCEP could undermine post-COVID recovery, workers' rights and environment

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. The negotiations were  delayed by India's withdrawal and the text was signed and released on November 15, 2020. 

See AFTINET's initial media release about the signing here and an explainer article about the RCEP text here

Learn more about the key issues that arose in the eight years of RCEP:negotiations

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Pakistan prepares to eliminate ISDS from its Bilateral Investment Treaties

April 8, 2021: Pakistan’s Board of Investment has prepared a strategy to withdraw from all inhibiting clauses in the 53 Bilateral Investment Treaties the country has with 48 countries, including Australia.

The major concerns are provisions related to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These shrink the policy space for the government to adopt measures in the public interest.

COVAX dissected and found wanting on providing vaccines to low income countries

April 7, 2021: A new analysis of the COVAX initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries uncovers major ethical and governance problems as well as health risks for the target countries. COVAX involves the World Health Organisation, governments, philanthropic initiatives like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical companies in the purchase of vaccines from the companies to make them available to low-income countries.

Democrats pressure Biden to support WTO rule change for equitable vaccine access as 23 countries demand change for future pandemics

March 31, 2021: The Biden Administration has come under pressure from almost 100 Congressional Democrats to support the suspension of World Trade Organisation rules on intellectual property during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 23 world leaders are now proposing a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.

More talk, No Action – Australia fails to support WTO changes for access to COVID vaccines

March 23, 2021: Australian government failure to support changes to World Trade Organisation monopoly rules on vaccines is negating its announcements about helping low-income countries to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, according to Dr Deborah Gleeson’s article in The Conversation.

Big Pharma plans price hikes for COVID-19 vaccines

March 22, 2021: With significant problems emerging in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the issue of vaccine prices is now emerging as another major problem for a fair, effective and rapid global vaccination program.

The World Trade Organisation rules give 20-year monopoly patents for medicines, which empowers a few global corporations to determine both supply and price, but these rules were never designed for a global pandemic.

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