Expert study condemns secrecy as RCEP talks resume in Bangkok

July 20, 2018: The Jakarta Post reports that an expert study by the Trans National Institute has found that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade talks between 16 Asia-Pacific countries* since 2012 have failed transparency and public participation tests.  The international assessment finds there has been a failure to release draft texts, no independent social economic and environmental impact assessments and corporate interests have had privileged access to influence negotiations while members of Parliament and the public do not have such access.

Civil society groups from the region are meeting in Bangkok on the weekend, and have been allowed only a brief meeting with some negotiators on Monday, with no access to draft texts.

The authors argue that, with a global trade war looming and public faith in corporate globalization at an all-time low, secrecy in trade deals cannot be accepted. People have a right to know what is being negotiated in their name.

They contrast the secrecy of trade negotiations with the transparency of other international institutions. The United Nations climate negotiations, The World Health Organization’s negotiations on tobacco control and the World Intellectual Property Organization all make submissions from negotiating parties publicly available, with regular meetings open to the public or stakeholders. Even the World Trade Organization publishes most negotiating texts, and reports by committee chairs are available on their websites.

The RCEP potentially covers half of the world’s population, and the authors argue that public opposition to secretive free trade deals is growing. Parliamentarians and the public should have full access to the contents of the negotiations, which potentially impact people’s lives and the environment.

See the short video from Friends of the Earth here.

*The RCEP negotiations include Australia, New Zealand, Japan,China, India, South Korea, and the 10 ASEAN countries.