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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



RCEP talks may miss December 2016 deadline, enter 2017: Nirmala
Countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership wanted to conclude the negotiations by December 2016 but "that is not going to happen," India’s Commerce and Industry Minister said today.
China, Asean ‘need fast RCEP deal’
ASEAN-China trade is contracting, making it necessary to speed up the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, says a top Chinese think-tank.
APRN Briefer on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
Neither the TPP nor the RCEP, neither the US nor China and their corporations will ever address the long-standing people’s aspiration for an international trading system that responds to their needs.
India may offer China different terms in new RCEP structure
India is working on a single tariff concession for 15 countries in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement but is thinking of differential treatment for China especially to the phase out period in view of the big trade deficit between the two Asian giants.
Trade talks that could milk India dry
The proposed shift in India’s RCEP strategy could hurt the country’s 75 million small dairy producing households
Call to remove IP clauses from trade pact
As the next round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade talks begin in Vietnam, humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières calls for the removal of intellectual property provisions from the agreement
India changes tack on RCEP negotiations
Last week, India abruptly changed tack by expressing its willingness to drop three-tiered approach on tariff liberalization under the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
RCEP services chapter: Risks for developing countries’ and LDCs’ policy space and regulatory sovereignty
The leaked RCEP services chapter from August 2015 shows the non-ASEAN countries, especially Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, have been very aggressive in their demands and insisted on new ways to bind the hands of governments in the future.
RCEP: Transparency in trade talks sought
With India set to become a signatory to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a new trade pact with 15 countries including China, experts and civil society organisations in Kerala have stepped up the demand for transparency in trade and tariff negotiations.
India’s new stance at RCEP may benefit China
In a major shift in stance that may benefit China, India has agreed to provide similar tariff cuts to all Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement member countries with limited deviation.