RCEP Rules Could Harm Asia’s Covid-19 Recovery

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed virtually on Sunday on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Trade union leaders and parliamentarians have warned the secretive deal will impose restrictions on how governments help workers through the pandemic.

The text of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is so secretive that even elected representatives have not been allowed to see it, even though it will potentially lock future governments into rules that will limit their abilities to make policies required in times of crisis or to improve access to public services and worker’s rights.

Leaked documents have shown that the agreement limits the potential for governments to make policies, including policies to recover from the Covid-19 crisis said Risa Hontiveros a Senator from the Philippines. “This pandemic has shown us that we should never put the economy before our people,” she said at a press conference organised by Unions for Trade Justice on Thursday.

Elected officials across the region fear that the agreement has been kept secret because it heavily favours large multinational corporations who help draft trade rules, over the local small and medium businesses that are struggling most due to the pandemic. Read the full article here.

Free trade agreements create a “race to the bottom” encouraging governments to compete to have the lowest possible wages and conditions.

Kate Lappin, PSI Regional Secretary for Asia & Pacific

Article originally published on the IPS (Inter Press Service) website.