Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

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 has been reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties .The JSCOT  Report  is here and AFTINET's comments are here. The government-dominated majority report acknowledged some of the flaws identified by our submissions, but still recommended in favour of the enabling legislation. Labor and the Greens made critical comments  which raised many  of the points in our submissions .Parliament will debate the enabling legislation at the next sitting scheduled for October 18.

See a short  explainer article about the RCEP text here,  how the RCEP could restrict improved regulation of aged care recommended by the Royal Commission here  and AFTINET's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties here

 

JSCOT Committee report on RCEP acknowledges deep flaws, but supports implementation

Media Release                          September 1, 2021

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) has released its Report 196 on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 ASEAN countries including Myanmar and the Philippines.

RCEP trade deal: Organisations representing millions urge Labor and cross-benchers to delay vote and support changes

August 20, 2021 Media Release

“Thirteen national organisations representing millions of Australians have written letters to Labor and cross-bench parliamentarians arguing that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal fails the human rights test and should be changed before the parliament votes on the implementing legislation,” Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET Convenor, said today.

RCEP trade deal fails on aged care

July 27, 2021: The Conversation today published a warning about the 15-state Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties began its public hearings on the agreement, signed last November.

In the oped, AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald explained that the trade-in-services chapter does not exempt Aged Care from “lock-in” of existing regulation and requires signatories to “not adversely modify existing regulation in particular services sectors”.

But the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety exposed multiple scandals caused by a lack of qualified staff and poor quality care, and recommended increases in staffing levels, increases in qualifications of staff and changes to licensing arrangements.

RCEP JSCOT inquiry announced: submissions by April 16, implementing legislation after August

March 19, 2021: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) between Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 ASEAN countries was tabled in parliament on March 18.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) has called for submissions by 16 April 2021, and is expected to hold public hearings in April-May.

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