Is the RCEP the TPP by another name?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was dubbed ‘the biggest trade deal you’ve never heard of’ because it was negotiated behind closed doors with very little public information available. But once the text was released it became clear that the TPP was a bad deal for workers, democracy, health and the environment.
The TPP-12 corporate agenda faced opposition in most TPP countries, especially the US, where there was bipartisan opposition leading to the US withdrawal in 2017. But the Japanese and Australian governments led the push to resurrect the TPP 11 and are pushing to repeat the same model in other trade agreements. First in line is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Even more secretive than the TPP
The RCEP has been described as China’s answer to the TPP - it involves all ten ASEAN countries, plus China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, but it does not include the US. If it goes ahead, the RCEP would cover half of the world’s population. Negotiations are now in their sixth year and the aim is to finalise the agreement by the end of 2018.
The RCEP is even more secretive than the TPP, which was infamous for its lack of transparency. While the TPP negotiations did include some limited civil society stakeholder consultation, opportunities for public interest groups like AFTINET to ask questions and express their views during RCEP negotiations have been few and far between.
TPP-like rules for ISDS, access to medicines, labour rights
Because of the secrecy, there’s a lot we don’t know about the RCEP negotiating text. But we do know from leaked documents that there is a push to use the TPP as a model for the RCEP.
Some of the worst and most controversial clauses of the TPP are being proposed in the RCEP, including rights for corporations to sue governments (ISDS) and extended monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies to charge higher prices for medicines.
The RCEP could also increase the numbers of temporary migrant workers who are vulnerable to exploitation without testing whether local workers are available.
These are the very clauses that made the TPP so unpopular, and they have little to do with trade between countries. Instead, they are about creating rules that extend corporate power at the expense of people and the planet.
At this stage, it appears that India and some ASEAN countries are resisting the worst of these clauses. But we’ll need another coordinated international and domestic campaign to ensure that the RCEP isn’t just another TPP by a different name.
AFTINET has joined with civil society organisations across the Asia Pacific region to insist that the RCEP must not be another TPP. We’re also calling for more public consultation and release of negotiating texts. We’ll continue to monitor these negotiations as they progress.
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For all the latest RCEP news, follow this link.
- Video: Dr Pat Ranald introduces the RCEP (AFTINET, March 2017)
- Why are small-scale farmers protesting the RCEP? (AFTINET, 4 Mar 2017)
- RCEP: copyright provisions could ‘stifle creativity' (AFTINET, 2 Mar 2017)
- Time for progressive fair trade policies (Dr Patricia Ranald in the Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 25 2017)
- The hidden costs of RCEP and corporate trade deals in Asia (Report by Transnational Institute et al, 8 Dec 2016)
- MSF (Doctors without Borders) briefing on RCEP threats to affordable medicines
- On World AIDS Day, threat to access to medicines looms large (MSF's Shailly Gupta in the Jakarta Post, 2 Dec 2016)
- Don’t repeat the failures of the TPP in other agreements (Dr Patricia Ranald in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Nov 2016)
- And you thought the TPP was secret. The RCEP is even worse (The Age’s Economics Editor Peter Martin in Fairfax Media, 5 Nov 2016)
- Online video forum ‘Lives on the Line’, with speakers from AFTINET and Doctors Without Borders. (Oct 18, 2016)
Updated: October 2018