RCEP fails the Human Rights TestJoin AFTINET

The RCEP fails the human rights test

The  Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations began in 2012 between 16 countries: India China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN countries, which represented half the world's population. 

The RCEP text remained secret until after it was signed, but leaked documents during the negotiations showed that the RCEP could have included corporate rights to sue governments, stronger monopolies on medicines that would delay the availability of cheaper generic medicines, restricted regulation of essential services and allow for more temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation, without any protections for workers’ rights or the environment. We linked with similar campaigns in other countries to oppose these damaging proposals. 

Campaign Achievements: India withdraws and some damaging proposals removed 

In November 2019, 15 governments claimed they had completed the text of the deal, but strong community campaigns from Indian civil society forced the Indian government to withdraw, which reduced its claimed benefits for Australia and other countries. Some of the most damaging clauses like corporate rights to sue governments and stronger medicine monopolies  have been removed.

But the RCEP still fails the human rights test

The text was signed and released on November 15, 2020. Despite gross violation of human rights in Myanmar, China and the Philippines, the RECP  has no commitments to human rights, labour rights or environmental standards, could restrict government regulation of essential services like aged care and restrict government  action for local industry development for economic recovery, There has been no independent study of is costs and benefits, and even the Morrison government doesn't claim that it provides extra markets for Australian exporters.

The RCEP has been reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties .The JSCOT  Report  is here and AFTINET's comments are here. The government-dominated majority report acknowledged some of the flaws identified by our submissions, but still recommended in favour of the enabling legislation. Labor and the Greens made critical comments  which raised many  of the points in our submissions .Parliament will debate the enabling legislation at the next sitting scheduled for October 18.

See a short  explainer article about the RCEP text here,  how the RCEP could restrict improved regulation of aged care recommended by the Royal Commission here  and AFTINET's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties here

 

Covid medicine monopolies waiver can accelerate global vaccine rollout: major reports

October 11, 2021: Two major reports have exposed the failings of the current system of global vaccine production and distribution, recommending both increased emergency donations of vaccines and the temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to enable production of cheap vaccines in low-income countries.

Campaign for global vaccine equity featured on ABC News

October 6, 2021: The campaign for a “TRIPS Waiver” has been featured across ABC News, with AFTINET Convenor Dr. Patricia Ranald telling ABC Radio National AM that the COVID pandemic represents an enormous challenge for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the international community:

“If the WTO cannot respond to the needs of the majority of people in the world … who are saying, 'We need this waiver of monopolies in order to be able to save millions of lives,' then I think this will be a significant failure for the World Trade Organization."

Global civil society demands access to vaccines and broader reforms ahead of the WTO Ministerial Conference

29 September 2021: As the COVID pandemic continues to devastate low-income countries, 206 major civil society groups have called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to change WTO rules for monopolies on vaccines that result in “vaccine apartheid”, and to work towards “a new vision of multilateralism which will result in ecological stability and shared prosperity”. The WTO is preparing for a Ministerial meeting in November.

National organisations urge PM to act against vaccine monopolies at President Biden’s vaccines summit and Quad meeting this week

Media Release                                                                            September 22, 2021

National public health, church, union, human rights, aid and development and environment organisations today called on the Prime Minister to support the proposal to waive WTO rules for vaccine monopolies in global talks this week, and show its support by becoming a formal sponsor.

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