New analysis shares learnings from Indian civil society campaign against the RCEP

February 4, 2020: A new analysis of the Indian civil society campaign against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) by GRAIN and the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements shares important learnings for social movements across the region. However, they also warn that efforts to bring India back to the negotiating table could mean that the campaign against the RCEP has not yet been fully won.

In December 2019 the Indian government announced its decision to withdraw from the RCEP after seven years of negotiations. This was a huge victory for Indian civil society, which had mounted a long and consistent campaign against the RCEP that highlighted the negative impacts that the deal could have on local farmers, industries and workers and on access to affordable medicines.

The analysis provides an overview of the civil society campaign, pointing to its success in uniting a broad range of affected constituencies and campaigning at the local, national and international level. In the end, the public opposition to the RCEP was impossible to ignore and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was forced to withdraw from the deal stating that “Neither the talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permits me to join the RCEP.”

India’s decision to leave the RCEP came as the 14 other partner countries, including Australia, announced the finalisation of the deal and their intention to sign the agreement in February this year. However, the timeline has now been extended again, with governments suggesting the text is likely to be finalised mid-2020 and the final agreement signed in November 2020. A key reason for the delay is attempts by Japan, New Zealand and Australia to bring India back into the negotiations. It remains to be seen whether the concessions they offer will be enough to bring the Indian government back to the negotiating table, but it is clear that Indian civil society will continue to resist the deal.