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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



MSF press release: RCEP trade deal negotiators must reject terms that would harm access to medicines
International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), along with other health groups, reiterated concerns about harmful intellectual property provisions in the proposed agreement that would increase market monopolies for pharmaceutical corporations and delay or block access to affordable generic medicines.
Next round of RCEP negotiations in Jakarta from Dec 5
The single-tier system of duty relaxation under the proposed mega trade deal RCEP will be the central issue under discussion at the next round of negotiations of 16 countries, including India and China, in Jakarta from December 5.
Civil society open letter to governments in the 16 RCEP countries
This is an urgent call by 316 civil society organisations from across the Asian and Pacific countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to reject TPP rules in the RCEP
Japan caught in dilemma with TPP facing dead end, RCEP and FTAAP in focus
The focus of the Asia-Pacific is believed to be shifting to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
The TPP is dead. What happens next?
If accomplished, RCEP would pave the way to the creation of the largest free trade bloc in the world
China says it will promote trade deals regardless of TPP, RCEP direction
China said it will actively participate in bilateral and multilateral trade deals regardless of the direction the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
As Trump kills TPP, China eyes December talks to fill trade void
The proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, has become the next best hope for trade-hungry Asian nations
India for parallel talks on goods, services at RCEP
India pitches for simultaneous negotiations for liberalisation of trade in goods and services
Amid dying TPP, APEC summit to focus on China’s trade deal
In a blow to the suspended U.S.-backed TPP, several countries in the Pacific Rim are now looking to join China’s free trade agreements.
RCEP agrees to work on modalities for movement of skilled workers
Negotiations at the Cebu ministerial a key demand made by India to find jobs for its burgeoning skilled workforce