Monday, August 06, 2018

RCEP - Trade agreements that may make Malaysia not be able to introduce better labour laws, environmental protection, etc ...

Malaysia and Malaysians must pay attention to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that Malaysia, being part of ASEAN may be signing. Like the TPPA, there are similar concerns here especially for workers, Malaysian communities...

This agreement again seems to be giving rights to FOREIGN INVESTORS to be able to sue Malaysia if it does anything that may cause the investor to have to expend more monies or may affect its profits in the future the increasing of MINIMUM Wages, like passing laws to increase our environmental protection and protect the health of the people,...

The agreement will also affect the health of Malaysians - as it tries to keep the cost of medicine HIGH..there is an attempt to extend the copyright/patent rights for a further 2 decades - hence allowing the patent holders to sell medicine at HIGH cost...and preventing Malaysia from manufacturing and/or using generic versions of needed medicines. We must ask HOW LONG SHOULD THERE BE COPYRIGHT PROTECTION especially for medicine, seeds, etc Honestly, I believe that this should not be more than 3 - 5 years, after that people should be able to produce and use 'generic' versions...GREAT INJUSTICE when most needed and available medicine is denied to especially to the poor because the producer companies just charge too HIGH a price...

Malaysia is already suffering the effect - and the government is no longer able to afford to pay for the best of medicines for Malaysian people...and even today, the government still do not have the capacity to give patients medicine sufficient until the next doctor's appointment...and we have to repeatedly go every month to government clinics/hospitals to collect our medicines...(something that is most inconvenient when we have to take time off work, pay for the cost of transport, etc ..and it all affects our Cost of Living - best if the new government make sure that every patient gets their full supply of medicine until the next scheduled doctor's appointment)..

Some articles for your consideration about this RCEP... 


RCEP agreement puts future of Thai people at risk 

This trade agreement means that Thailand may not be able to introduce better labour laws.
  • 21 Jul 2018
  • Bangkok Post
Since the 2014 coup, we have witnessed some serious degradation of people’s rights, from political, economic and social, as well as setbacks to environmental protection and the livelihood of communities. 

Women human rights defenders have increasingly become at risk of violence, discrimination, and other violations. After four years under the military regime, at least 222 rural women HRDs have faced trial in court simply for defending their right to land, livelihood, and community while the state continues to give concessions that impact the communities and the environment.
SHOHEI MIYANO/KYODO NEWS VIA AP A woman walks near the venue of a meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Kobe, western Japan, in February last year.

While there is an urgent need for reforms and measures to protect our public goods, the Thai government is about to enter a trade deal that could seriously harm the reform agenda and deprive communities of the ability to make decisions for fear of violating investors’ rights.

As Bangkok is hosting the 23rd round of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed multilateral trade agreement involving Asean members and six other countries is cause for concern for Thailand’s ability to reform and improve the quality of life of its people through various mechanisms. This is because RCEP ensures that the signatory governments will not undertake anything that will decrease or impact investor costs and/or present and future profits.

This means that if Thailand goes ahead with reforms, even by the introduction of new and necessary laws and policies, the investors (be it the corporations, its shareholders including original and subsequent shareholders) have the right to take legal action against the government of Thailand as provided for in the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses currently proposed in the RCEP.

Worse still, these legal actions commenced against Thailand will not be adjudicated according to Thai law, in Thai courts, or in Thai tribunals but in a secret tribunal in a foreign country according to non-tangible trade and investments rules. It will cost Thailand billions of baht to defend such claims, and if Thailand were to lose, it may be forced to pay billions more — and all this will be the money that Thais could have used for improving their quality of life.

In 2015, UN experts pointed out that governments are less likely to pass laws essential for advancing rights including women’s rights because of a fear of being sued. In a statement, they said that the problem has been aggravated by the “chilling effect” that intrusive ISDS awards have had, when states are penalised for adopting regulations, for example, to protect the environment, food security, access to generic and essential medicines or raising the minimum wage.

There are quite a few real-world examples of what can go wrong. The Veolia group, a French multinational, is suing the Egyptian government after a rise in the monthly minimum wage, using the ISDS provisions in an investment treaty between France and Egypt. Will Thailand be able to increase minimum wages in the future?

In Peru, the mining operations of Doe Run caused environmental destruction so bad that the mining area, La Oroya has been repeatedly declared as one of the most polluted places in the world. When the Peruvian government revoked the mine’s licence, it was slapped with a lawsuit. Imagine if the Thai government is sued by Kingsgate for ceasing the operations of a mine for environmental impacts. How will this affect Thailand’s ability to introduce more stringent environmental and health protection regulations or discontinue mining operations for the benefit of the Thai people?

This trade agreement means that Thailand may not be able to introduce better labour laws, laws requiring employers to make greater contribution for social protection schemes of workers — which may include an obligation to provide creches/ daycare facilities at the workplace, better maternity/paternity rights, introduce additional paid leave for women including more maternity leave and even introducing “menstruation” leave. It will also mean Thailand will not be able to introduce laws requiring safer working environments, or even laws requiring a greater environmental protection.

Many argue that such trade agreements will enhance economic growth but are Thai people willing to sacrifice a better quality of life in exchange for such “economic growth”? One must also be concerned whether this “‘economic growth” will really ensure better equality or whether it will just end up in the pocket of a few rich and elites.

And women are always at the bottom. Women human rights defenders who defend their community resources will become even more of a target due to increasing pressures from corporations. Women are the first to lose jobs when their employers cut staff and the first to be affected when public services are curbed. This then forces them to either migrate or take up any work in order to survive.

More importantly, if the Thai state is truly concerned about the well-being of its people, especially women, it needs to ensure democratic representation and participation of the people before it enters into any trade agreement. Thailand certainly will not want to end up with its hands tied up by such agreements, ruining the chance of a future where reforms are brought to improve the livelihoods and rights of its people.

Pranom Somwong is the representative of Protection International in Thailand and a member of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law & Development (APWLD). She is a human rights lawyer and has dedicated her life to protecting people whose rights have been violated.- Bangkok Post, 21/7/2018

Press Release
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

RCEP Has Human Rights Concerns: Women’s Groups
24 July, 2018

Bangkok, Thailand

Women’s groups from the region representing farmers’ rights, workers rights, land rights, national resource rights, indigenous rights, minorities’ and labour rights joined the 1.5 hour civil society stakeholder consultations with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiating countries in Bangkok yesterday. ASEAN and its six trading partners China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are currently holding their 23rd round of negotiation.

Civil society groups were initially promised more time to express their concerns, however were subsequently told that they had less time. “Is this the value of human rights and peoples’ engagements and participation? 

Civil societies, media, parliamentarians and even local governments have been hardly given any access to this negotiation, in a process already bereft of transparency,” said Dinda Nuurannisaa Yura, Solidaritas 

Perempuan, Indonesia. “RCEP impacts more than 50% of the world’s population and is being negotiated without the knowledge of this population. For many governments negotiating this, RCEP might be about cost and benefit, about selling or buying, about letters and numbers. However for women and many other marginalised communities, it is about our life and death.

Trade liberalisation over the last several decades has seen women’s wages suppressed for corporations’ maximum profits. Health care privatisation or budget cuts in public services have led to women paying more for them or a double burden because they cannot afford to pay for needed health services. All this has led us to a world where just eight men own the same as the world’s bottom half, many of whom are women,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela National Alliance of Women, Philippines.

While governments acknowledge that these inequalities exist and globalisation has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, both in developing as well as developed countries, they have also expressed their inabilities to reverse it. “If our governments recognise that this current system no longer works, why are we maintaining it?” added Joms Salvador. The RCEP is also expected to contain an investment provision known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – one which has fallen under wide criticism both within RCEP countries and globally. “ISDS allows for corporations to sue governments when they attempt to regulate corporations, protect the environment, provide public services, protect public health or introduce affirmative action for women. This is a corporatocracy, not a democracy,” said Pranom Somwong, representative of Protection International Thailand. Businesses also met with the negotiators separately though no information of that business meeting was shared. Past negotiation rounds have seen businesses getting a significant amount of more time than civil societies, sometimes, as much as an entire day.

Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Thailand added, “W(om)E(n) the people as sovereign power must know what this RCEP really stands for – whether it is to facilitate a ‘free’ trade based on people’s rights and needs; or rather it is to maximise corporate interest and power. The current negotiations indicate it’s for the latter as it is done in a complete secrecy behind people’s backs while giving information and decision making access to corporations. We must end this political, corporate hypocrisy. Women have been at the heart of the movements to halt the deadly advances of the WTO. We will use the same solidarity to stop the RCEP and be the power to make decisions over our own lives and future. ”

The women’s groups strongly reject RCEP as it reinforces a destructive development model that the existing free trade agreements and the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation have inflicted upon the world’s poor and particularly poor women. Women’s groups urge governments to realise a trade agenda based on the principles of international cooperation and solidarity that truly advances Development Justice.

About RCEP

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade agreement between ASEAN and it’s six trading partners China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Further analysis about RCEP’s impact on women is available here in Thai and English languages. Watch this and this video campaigns that highlight concerns about trading away human rights.

No comments: