Media Release: Melbourne public forum on the RCEP: Speakers say secret trade deal threatens democracy, human rights and the environment

July 1, 2019, Media Release:The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between 16 countries continue in Melbourne behind closed doors. The talks include China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN countries, representing half of the world’s population and 30% of global GDP.

But community groups argue that the RCEP promotes corporate rights at the expense of people and the environment. The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) and other organisations* are hosting a Public Forum to discuss the social and environmental risks of the RCEP trade deal today at 6:30-8:30pm at Trades Hall, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton.

Speakers include Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET, Michele O'Neil, ACTU President, Dr Deborah Gleeson, Latrobe University, Professor Jane Kelsey, The University of Auckland, Thuy Nguyen Phuong, ActionAid Vietnam and Sam Cossar-Gilbert, Friends of the Earth International. See quotes below.

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald “It is unacceptable that RCEP texts remain secret until after signing. We want governments to release the texts and enable independent economic, human rights and environmental impact assessments before the deal is signed.”

Dr Deborah Gleeson, Senior Lecturer, Public Health, La Trobe University: “The RCEP could extend monopolies on medicines, which would delay access to cheaper generic medicines. This would be devastating for low-income countries that are reliant on generic medicines.”

Professor Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law, the University of Auckland: “Our governments promise a new, inclusive and progressive approach to trade negotiations. But they continue to pursue secret negotiations and a pro-corporate, anti-development agenda in RCEP that restricts their right, and responsibility, to regulate in the public interest.”

Thuy Nguyen Phuong, Policy and Campaign Manager, ActionAid Vietnam: “Women workers in Vietnam and other developing countries are especially vulnerable to exploitation in terms of low minimum wage and lack of access to public services. We must have independent assessment of the gender impact of the RCEP.”

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, International Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International said:

“RCEP is a secret trade deal that fails to live up to internationally recognized standards. The little we do know about the deal through leaked documents show it could increase the trade in fossil-fuels and give corporations the power to sue governments for policies and laws that protect the environment.”

*Supporting organisations: The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, ActionAid Australia, The Australian Council of Trade Unions, The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, The Community and Public Sector Union, The National Union of Workers, The Public Health Association of Australia, Union Aid Abroad APHEDA and The Victorian Trades Hall Council.