ACTU condemns Morrison Government over RCEP trade agreement with Myanmar military regime

April 14, 2021: The Australian Council of Trade Unions condemned the Federal Government at a parliamentary inquiry hearing into Myanmar on April 13, 2021, for pressing ahead with ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement which includes trade with Myanmar.

The RCEP is the largest trade agreement in the world and includes China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the 10 ASEAN countries (including Myanmar), and by ratifying Australia will legitimise trade with the military regime.

Australia’s inaction against the military junta is stark in comparison to other developed democracies, including the USA who recently suspended its 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Myanmar.

“Workers and trade unions are being targeted by the military junta – workers have been killed, arrested and intimidated for participating in peaceful protests and strikes; sixteen unions and workers’ organisations have been declared illegal; and many union leaders are being hunted by the military and have been forced into hiding. The Morrison Government should be introducing sanctions and suspending ties with this brutal dictatorship – not deepening ties through a new trade agreement,” said ACTU President Michele O’Neil.

Additionally, RCEP has no chapter on labour rights and includes no worker’s protections – including against child labour and slavery. Over half of the 15 countries party to RCEP are ranked as among the worst countries in the world to work according to the International Trade Union Confederation’s 2020 Global Rights Index.

In addition to not ratifying RCEP, the ACTU called on the Morrison Government to immediately implement sanctions against the Myanmar military, its leaders, its business interests, and business partners.

The RCEP was tabled in Parliament on 18 March 2021 and is now the subject of an inquiry by the parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The deadline for submissions to the JSCOT inquiry into the RCEP is April 16.