Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

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:

RCEP impact on Developing Countries – regional webinar

November 18, 2020: Just a few days prior to the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), economic experts, business owners, civil society organisations and parliamentarians expressed their concerns about its impact on developing countries in a regional webinar.

The webinar was organised by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD), Public Services International (PSI), and Indonesia for Global Justice (IDJ).

RCEP text explained

November 17, 2020: Dr Patricia Ranald's explainer article on the RCEP text has been published in The Conversation here.  The article notes that  RCEP rules could impede local industry development needed to recover from the COVID- 19 crisis, that it will restrict government regulation of essential services and that the RCEP has no commitment to labour rights and environmental standards.

RCEP trade deal could impede-post COVID local industry recovery and ignores labour rights and environmental standards

Media release  November 14, 2020:  “The giant RCEP trade deal will be signed tomorrow by Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 ASEAN countries (but without India) with great fanfare about its claimed economic benefits. But the deal was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, and has not been revised in the light of lessons from the pandemic. Like previous trade deals the RCEP  restricts local industry policies,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

Giant RCEP trade deal to be signed without India, Sunday November 15, no labour rights or environmental standards

November 12, 2020: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal between Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the ten ASEAN countries* will be signed online at the ASEAN Summit on Sunday, with much fanfare from governments about its size and potential economic benefits.

But India left the negotiations in November last year, which means the agreement is worth less to Australia, since Australia already has bilateral or regional free trade agreements with all the other RCEP countries.

Join the RCEP photo petition by November 11, before the RCEP signing!

October 28, 2020: The Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP), a massive trade deal negotiated in secret, is expected to be signed on 14 November 2020, by hologram!

The RCEP involves Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea plus the 10 ASEAN countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It will cover 2.2 billion people – almost 30% of the world’s population.

RCEP Trade Ministers want to sign in November but still hoping India may re-join

August 31, 2020: The official statement from the on-line meeting on August 27 of 15 Trade Ministers negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership said that they were "pleased with the significant progress made towards finalizing the RCEP Agreement for signing at the fourth RCEP Summit in November 2020,” and that “the RCEP remains open for India”.

Pages