ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights call for more transparency in RCEP negotiations

March 11, 2020: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a regional network of current and former parliamentarians, has criticised the lack of transparency in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Parnership Agreement (RCEP) negotiations and called for the released of the RCEP text and for governments to conduct open and inclusive public consultations.

Teddy Baguilat, former Philippine parliamentarian and board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights has argued that “governments have given privileged positions to large business lobby groups, at the expense of public and parliamentary oversight.”

He also criticised proposals to include investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in the RCEP, which enable corporations to sue governments for policy decisions that impact on their investments. The latest reports from negotiations suggest that ISDS will not be included in the agreement, however, member governments have not ruled out the inclusion of ISDS in future RCEP negotiations.

APHR has called on governments to officially exclude ISDS mechanisms from all RCEP negotiations including future negotiations after the agreement has been signed.

Tom Villarin, former Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and APHR member, has also criticised the secrecy in RCEP negotiations stating that “The RCEP negotiations have been conducted almost entirely in secret, making it impossible for parliaments and the public to scrutinise whether or not the deal respects human rights and democratic principles.”

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights has called for negotiating texts to be made available to the public and parliamentarians, and for member countries to hold open and inclusive public consultations and conduct independent environment, human rights and economic assessments of the agreement text.

AFTINET has raised similar concerns and In December 2019 we joined with 94 organisations across the Asia Pacific region to release an open letter calling on RCEP member governments to release the RCEP text prior to the agreement being signed.

RCEP negotiations are ongoing and member governments have stated that they are committed to signing the deal in 2020.