RCEP Trade Ministers vow to sign in 2020

June 29, 2020: Trade Ministers from the 15 states negotiating the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership met virtually on June 23, 2020, but ignored an open letter from AFTINET and a previous letter from 94 community organisations from RCEP countries calling for release of the RCEP text, a pause in the RCEP negotiations and review of the text to ensure that its rules do not restrict government action to save lives during the current and future pandemics.

Although the pandemic has exposed flaws in current trade deals the RCEP ministers are persisting with business as usual.

The Ministers from the 10 ASEAN states, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand issued a bare 4-paragaph statement affirming that they would sign the agreement this year. The text remains secret until then.

“As the importance of the RCEP continues to grow in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we shared the view that the signing of the Agreement will serve as a clear signal of our unwavering support for the multilateral trading system, regional integration as well as economic development across the region,” the Ministers’ statement said.

India did not attend the meeting, but the statement emphasised that “RCEP remains open for India”.

The massive social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic failed to inspire any rethinking of the underlying assumption of the proposed RCEP that privileges global corporate supply chains over all other social and environmental priorities.