The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a so-called mega-regional economic agreement being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) governments and their six FTA partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The RCEP agreement is largely driven by ASEAN. Indeed, the RCEP originated in, and expands upon, the stitching together of five existing ASEAN+1 agreements, that brought ASEAN together with Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. The stated goal of the negotiations is to “boost economic growth and equitable economic development, advance economic cooperation and broaden and deepen integration in the region through the RCEP,” according to the ASEAN website. From what is known of the agreement’s contents, the proposed RCEP would cover almost every aspect of economy such as goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights (IPR), rules of origin and competition and dispute settlement.

The ninth negotiating round took place in Nay Pyi Taw, Burma, in August 2015. An earlier intention of concluding the talks by the end of 2015 has now been overtaken by a vaguer deadline.

Concerns about the RCEP have been voiced in a number of contexts and cover a range of issues. As with many negotiations, they have been conducted with a high degree of secrecy. A 2015 leaked text on intellectual property rights (IPR) proposed by Japan’s negotiators (and apparently supported by South Korea) confirms the concern that the proposed RCEP IPR provisions resemble the TRIPs-plus provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Patient groups including the Delhi Network of Positive People and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition-South Asia have held rallies outside the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi to protest the risks that the RCEP poses to access to medicines.

The leaks also show that Japan and South Korea want to get all Asian countries into UPOV, the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties, under the terms of its 1991 convention. UPOV is a specialised system of seed patenting, which makes it illegal – indeed, a criminal offense — for farmers to save and reuse patented seeds. This has huge implications for food security and farmers’ rights in the region.

On copyright and digital rights, the deal could be “even worse than TPP or ACTA”, groups say.

The RCEP appears to overlap and compete with the higher-profile TPP agreement which has become heavily influenced by the US’ economic and geopolitical agenda in the Asia-Pacific. (7 of RCEP’s member governments belong to the TPP.) Additionally, China has recently decided to champion the Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), an old US-initiated proposal to have a single free trade agreement covering all APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) member states. So the competition and overlap are between the three deals: RCEP, TPP and FTAAP.

Last update: August 2015 / Photo: Siddharth Singh

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    Australia Fair Trade and Investment Network’s campaign page on RCEP
  • MSF RCEP page
    Medecins Sans Frontiere’s access to medecine campaign page on RCEP
  • NO RCEP regional week of action
    Facebook page maintained by the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development for the regional week of action against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, 10-15 October 2016.
  • RCEP Legal
    Legal documents and analyses relating to the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP)

RCEP resistance

  • 1-Jun-2017 Focus on the Global South
    Civil society interventions on the RCEP
    In the recent “RCEP 18th Round of Talks,” members of civil society organizations and social movements presented their positions vis-à-vis the RCEP.
  • 9-May-2017 Focus on the Global South
    Labor groups raise grave concerns over RCEP
    Representatives from major trade unions in both the public and private sectors have raised serious concerns on the possible impacts of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which is currently being negotiated in Manila.
  • 8-May-2017 Forum on FTAs
    Stop trading workers’ rights over profits
    RCEP magnifies existing inequalities and discriminates against women, indigenous peoples, people living with HIV or other illnesses, people with disabilities,rural communities, farmers and workers
  • 4-May-2017 APWLD
    Asia Pacific CSOs get ready for No RCEP week of action with release of video
    Civil society groups say no to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
  • 27-Apr-2017 Forum against FTAs
    Employment crisis and free trade agreements( FTAs) : Why workers should reject RCEP
    Trade unions, farmers groups, health activists, and other people’s movements are planning to organise a series of events to put pressure on the Government of India to withdraw from RCEP negotiations.
  • 4-Apr-2017 Forum against FTAs
    India: People’s groups reject RCEP
    Around 100 representatives of people’s movements from southern Indian states gathered at the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore from 2-3 April to discuss the implications of the proposed mega free trade agreement - Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
  • 30-Mar-2017 La Via Campesina
    South India: Workshop - Understanding RCEP and its implications
    A workshop is being convened in early April to build collective capacities on trade agreements in general and RCEP in particular. The workshop will be held in Bangalore, a city in South India
  • 15-Mar-2017 Tele Sur
    Anti-TPP protesters clash with riot police in Chile
    Riot police clashed with protesters in Viña Del Mar, where representatives of the 11 remaining member states of the Trans Pacific Partnership together with China, Colombia and South Korea met.