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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

Learn more:

WTO debate on open access to COVID-19 vaccines intensifies, new DG proposes ‘interim solution’

March 3, 2021: The majority of more than 30 delegations speaking in the World Trade Organisation General Council on March 1, 2021, were in favour of the proposed suspension of rules under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, for the COVId-19 pandemic period, according to a WTO official familiar with the proceedings.

Vatican backs WTO rule changes to make medicines accessible to all, as decision delayed

February 25, 2021: The World Trade Organisation has again delayed the debate and decision on the proposed suspension of intellectual property trade rules from its General Council meeting on March 1-2, to the TRIPS Council on March 10-11, 2021. Meanwhile Pope Francis, who has an ambassador to the WTO, has come out is support of the suspension.

On February 23, 2020, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the WTO, told the Council of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights:

Labour and Civil Society urge G20 to support more medicine accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic

February 22, 2021: The World Trade Organisation will finally vote on the suspension of intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1-2, 2021. The global advisory bodies for workers and civil society to the Group of 20 rich countries is urging it to call on the WTO to support the suspension.

New WTO Director-General prioritises access to vaccines, faces challenge of waiver for WTO rules

February 17, 2021: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed as World Trade Organisation Director-General on February 15, is making her top priority ensuring the trade body does more to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former special envoy for the World Health Organisation on COVID-19, she called the disparities in vaccine rates between rich and poor countries “unconscionable” and urged members to lift export restrictions on medical items.

UK pressures Australia for carbon reductions in FTA talks as EU and US ponder carbon levies

February 12, 2021: Both new US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are headlining their determination to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But Australia’s Morrison government is declaring that it will fight any proposal to impose border carbon levies, including in the current UK-Australia and EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

Biden relents on WTO, greenlights new Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

February 10, 2021: Former US President Trump made life at the top of the World Trade Organisation hard for its former head, Roberto Azevado, who left early to take a job with PepsiCo. Then Trump blocked the appointment of his replacement, who had clear majority support. Now US President Biden has cleared the way for her appointment,

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria, is likely be the first woman and first African to head the WTO when the post is filled later this year.

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