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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



Malaysia is hopeful of concluding RCEP negotiations In 2015
Malaysia is hopeful that negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) can be concluded by year-end, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said.
RCEP members fail to finalize talks template
Members of the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) grouping were unable to agree a template for negotiations on a proposed mega regional trade agreement at the sixth round of talks held in Greater Noida near New Delhi last week.
People living with HIV rally in streets of Delhi as India hosts RCEP trade negotiations
As the 6th round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement take place in India, people living with HIV are rallying in the streets of New Delhi to warn that harmful intellectual property provisions - put forth by Japan - could severely restrict access to affordable medicines for people in developing countries.
Protests by farmers and trade unions against the mega FTA RCEP
As negotiators from 16 nations meet in New Delhi for 5 day consultations on the Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP), farmers, trade unions, retailers groups, and civil society organisations protested outside the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida. RCEP is a complex North South Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India is negotiating with the 10 member ASEAN block plus Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Indian farmers, trade unions slam RCEP free trade talks
Activists say the RCEP free trade pact will damage Indian manufacturing, dairy and agriculture sectors
Farmers, trade unions and CSOs call to halt RCEP negotiations
In the backdrop of 6th Round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations scheduled to take place from 1-5 December 2014 in Greater Noida, India farmers’ organizations, trade unions and civil society organizations expressed serious concern over the very idea of free trade agreement (FTA), lack of transparency and the absence of socio economic impact assessments to asses the impact of the proposed FTA.
Japanese Minister urges Thai to support ASEAN + 6 FTA
Japan wants Thailand to support the RCEP negotiations and proposes the resumption of the Japan–Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) due to the changing political situations in the two countries.
Médecins Sans Frontières warns about IP inclusion in Asian FTA
The inclusion of intellectual property in the ongoing negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between 16 countries, most of them Asian, is raising concerns about “TRIPS-plus” measures that could jeopardise generic drugs production in India, according to Médecins Sans Frontières.
Civil society red-flags FTAs in letter to Commerce Minister
About 75 civil society organisations have written to India’s Commerce Minister Nirmala Seetharaman conveying their concern on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
RCEP negotiation in full swing amid challenges as region steps up integration
The fifth round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks is set to commence in June, barely two months after the last round, a sign that the efforts by 16 Asian countries to create the world’s biggest free trade area are gaining momentum.