NO RCEP: Insubstantial Agreement without People, Decent Work, Planet and Sustainable Development for building forward better after COVID-19
The 10 ASEAN Member States and its 5 key partner countries – Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – signed a trade pact, ‘the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)’, at the 37th ASEAN Summit on Sunday, 15 November 2020 in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic. The RCEP will cover most economic with wider and significant economic, social and even health impacts.
The ITUC - Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) strongly denounces the RCEP that does not meet our standard of just and fair trade rules. Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-AP, expressed his great dismay at the agreement by saying, ‘the deal would jeopardise the potential for a sound industrial base for most countries, aggravate inequality and social-economic vulnerability, and lower income for workers and farmers.’. He also criticised the participating countries for 8 years of a series of undemocratic and closed negotiations. “Obviously, they even filed to meet their own guiding principle and objective to create ‘an open, inclusive and rules-based trading system to make trade work for all’.”, said Shoya Yoshida.
The agreement has no people in it as there was no social dialogue and no comprehensive impact assessment of the deal for workers and farmers against adverse impacts in the process of negotiations.
The agreement has also no labour in it without an enforceable and effective labour chapter with a robust monitoring mechanism. Shoya Yoshida pointed out continued and rampant violations of labour rights in the RCEP participating countries and he warned of the risks of further regression in respecting rights of vulnerable workers in informal and precarious employment, and a continued downward pressure on wages and deterioration of working conditions.
The agreement fails to have Environmental Standards so that It is clear that the RCEP does not care our planet.
Furthermore, the RCEP would hinder our efforts to build back better after COVID-19 towards a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient world by escalating the division of labour in global supply chains, privatisation of essential services, and the dominance of corporations on our governments. Public services as well as the governments’ ability to regulate in the interest of own people would be weakened. Therefore, the agreement is clearly against our prosperity in future.
Shoya Yoshida said, ‘the RCEP has no people, labour and our planet even though those should be put at the centre of building a prosperous future with sustainability, more inclusiveness and resilience. Therefore, the ITUC-AP strongly calls on all democratically elected legislatures in the participating countries to not ratify it.”
The ITUC-AP will continue its campaign for an open, inclusive and rules-based trading system for all including blocking ratification of the agreement together with our affiliates from the signatory countries.
Please read our statement on the RCEP here.