RCEP in force from January 1, 2022 but fails on human rights

January 10, 2022: Following ratification by the Australian and other governments, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into force on January 1, 2022. Negotiations began in 2012 between sixteen countries, but India withdrew in 2019. Six ASEAN and five non-ASEAN governments have ratified. They are Australia, New Zealand,, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines have not yet ratified the RCEP.

News about the RCEP’s implementation only reported tariff reductions and common customs standards. However the government has acknowledged that the RCEP provides no additional market access for Australian exports because Australia already has free trade agreements with all RCEP members. There has been no independent assessment of the economic, environmental, health or gender impacts of the RCEP. The RCEP has hidden traps.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: the TPP by another name?

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade agreement that the Australian government is currently negotiating with 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The RCEP is one of a new set of trade agreements that aim to expand the power of global corporations and lock-in neoliberal economic policies. It includes many of the same provisions as the the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership and negotiations are even more secretive. If agreed the deal would cover half the wold’s population and 30 per cent of global GDP and would pose a serious threat to democracy, restrict government’s regulatory power and undermine human rights, labour rights and the environment in Australia and across the region.

AFTINET is calling on the Australian government to ensure that the RCEP:

95 Asia-Pacific organisations band together against ISDS

4 August 2016

An unprecedented alliance of 95 civil society organisations from the Asia-Pacific today urged trade ministers not to include investor rights to sue governments in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, currently being negotiated in Laos.

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said “ISDS has been a major driver of community opposition to the TPP between the US, Australia and 10 Pacific rim countries, and will generate the same strong opposition to the RCEP."

“Two of the largest RCEP countries, India and Indonesia, are actually withdrawing from bilateral investment treaties which contain ISDS, because of ISDS claims of hundreds of millions of dollars against them.

We urge the Australian government and other TPP countries like Japan and Korea not to pursue the failed TPP ISDS model in the RCEP.”

Indian government to stay out of RCEP and review all FTAs

July 28, 2020: Following a recent meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and an assessment of the outcomes of all India’s free trade agreements by the Commerce & Industry and Finance Ministries, the Indian government has created four working groups to develop a new trade strategy to boost foreign investment and exports, an official said to the Economic Times.

India opposes rejoining RCEP over China concerns

May 21, 2020: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s decision to quit the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership grouping, which includes the 10 ASEAN nations, in November 2019, and a new deadline for India to consider a new offer on market access expired on May 15, 2020.

Neither the Commerce and Industries Ministry nor the Ministry of External Affairs would confirm that they had even replied to the RCEP letter by May 15.

AFTINET RCEP second submission September 2015

September 2015: RCEP negotiations between Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea, India and 10  ASEAN countries began in 2013, with very little public information and no public access to details of texts.  They are now considering proposals for stronger monopolies on medicines and for foreign investor rights to sue governments over changes to domestic legislation, and aiming to finish the negotiations in 2016, AFTINET has done a second submission which addresses these issues in more detail.

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