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Asia-Pacific unions urge governments to ensure trade deal meets union demands

3 July, 2019Unions in Asia-Pacific have urged the region’s governments to ensure that the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement meets five key union demands.

Unions are concerned that the secret RCEP negotiations will overrule democratic decisions and state sovereignty in favour of multinational corporations. The unions demand that:

  1. Participating governments must comply with fundamental ILO Conventions
  2. Investor-State Dispute settlement mechanisms – which threaten democracy by giving companies the right to sue governments – must be removed
  3. Public procurement and public service should be excluded from RCEP
  4. The negotiating texts must be made available for public scrutiny, with a consultation process for stakeholders
  5. Governments must conduct a human rights impact assessment of RCEP and submit the findings to democratic assemblies.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The proposed agreement will govern trade in the world’s largest economic block, covering half the world’s population. In conjunction with the latest round of negotiations in Melbourne on 30 June 2019, Asia-Pacific trade unions – including IndustriALL Global Union, BWI, IUF, UNI, the International Domestic Workers’ Federation and the ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council and their affiliates – have jointly urged participating governments to ensure RCEP meets the unions’ five key demands.

In a statement, the unions said:

“Representing millions of workers in the region, we hereby register our grave concern over the ongoing secret negotiations of the mega regional trade agreement since 2013, which covers a region of 50 percent population in the world, 30 percent global GDP and 25 percent of world exports.

“It has been a concern of trade unions and civil society organizations that trade agreements are increasingly used by multinational corporations to overrule state policies and to create a friendly business environment that can maximize its economic profits at the expense of workers and human rights.”

IndustriALL regional secretary Annie Adviento said,

“A well-negotiated trade deal can lead to shared peace and prosperity for the people of the region. But we have to ensure that the deal benefits people, and not just capital. We will not allow multinational corporations to overturn our democracy and undermine our public services through deals negotiated in secret.”