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RCEP

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a so-called mega-regional economic agreement being negotiated since 2012 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.

RCEP is largely driven by ASEAN. Indeed, the project originated in, and expands upon, the stitching together of five existing ASEAN+1 trade agreements, that ASEAN signed 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, competition and dispute settlement.

The negotiations have missed several deadlines repeatedly, even though they have gained momentum since 2016.

Concerns about the RCEP have been voiced in a number of contexts and cover a range of issues. A 2015 leaked text on intellectual property rights proposed by Japan’s negotiators confirmed concerns that the deal could go beyond the rules agreed to at the World Trade Organisation, known as the Trade Related Aspects of IPRs (TRIPS) agreement.

Various movements, including environmental groups, trade unions, domestic workers, farmers, hawkers, and people living with HIV have been raising their concerns over the trade deal since the text got leaked. Thousands of them marched against the harmful provisions in the trade deal, demanding transparency from governments, in Hyderabad, India, in July 2017 and organised a People’s Convention on RCEP.

The 2015 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.

The implications for access to medicines are even more alarming. Japan and South Korea are channeling demands by big pharma for longer patent terms and for monopoly rights over clinical trial data. These provisions could undermine access to price-lowering generic medicines, and thus, life-saving treatment for millions of people in the developing world.

On copyright and digital rights, groups say the deal could be “even worse than TPP or ACTA”, referring to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that was stopped due to public pressure. On services and other chapters as well, the RCEP appears to overlap and compete with the higher-profile TPP agreement which has been signed by 11 Pacific Rim countries. (Seven of the states negotiating RCEP are TPP members.)

To date, no official text has been made public, even though the agreement would affect several billion people. This continues to fuel concerns. In fact, civil society groups were completely shut out of the 22nd negotiation round in Singapore in March 2018 while transnational corporations were invited for a business dialogue.

Last update: June 2018 / Photo: Siddharth Singh



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Australian High Commissioner Harinder Sidhu hope that India will seriously consider returning to the RCEP table.
ASEAN Secretariat invites India for RCEP meeting in February in Bali
The ASEAN Secretariat has invited India to participate in a meeting called in Bali on February 3 and 4 on RCEP agreement to sort out concerns of New Delhi.
What does India’s RCEP withdrawal tell us? – Analysis
Given the current ease and widespread access to information as well as the social media-facilitated civil mobilizations across the globe, political elites of the RCEP countries should be consistently mindful of such risk from the grassroot level.
Ministry seeks nod for RCEP signing
The Commerce Ministry is scheduled to propose cabinet endorsement of Thailand’s participation in signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the middle of this year.
RCEP offers $125 billion market for domestic companies
Even though the government has decided to stay out of the world’s largest trade block RCEP, it offers a market potential of USD 125 billion if domestic firms improve competitiveness, as per a World Trade Centre study.
India’s ‘door still open’ to RCEP free-trade deal: Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
More than two months after India pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has suggested New Delhi could rethink its decision.
India has left RCEP behind, but not its ambition in Southeast Asia
India’s decision in the final months of last year to withdraw from negotiations for the mega-regional trade agreement known as the RCEP disappointed the countries of Southeast Asia, which are also members of the ASEAN.
Japan, Australia reaffirm goal for RCEP deal
Japan and Australia reaffirmed their goal of concluding the envisioned RCEP free trade deal among 16 nations including India by the end of the year.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership spells danger for 1.1 billion women
Australia has yet to show any serious interest in recognising the potential negative impacts of trade policies on gender or take steps to systematically assess these. A gender equitable trade policy is possible. But it would look nothing like the RCEP.
RoK seeks stronger ties with ASEAN to accelerate RCEP
The Republic of Korea (RoK) will spare no efforts to help conclude the RCEP by the end of this year by forging deeper ties with the ASEAN, as the country strives to revitalise its ailing exports