Category Archives: Trade Agreement

CALL TO ASEAN LEADERS: REJECT RCEP AND OPPOSE UNJUST TRADE DEALS

SENTRO and FDC lead a protest action in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila against RCEP. May 10, 2017.

Trade Justice Pilipinas a broad platform campaigning for just trade and investment policies expresses its opposition to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement or RCEP.

We urge the leaders of the ASEAN members’ states to defend the primacy of human rights, environmental integrity and peoples’ welfare against international economic agreements like RCEP that advance commercial interests and the corporate agenda, and impinge on the ability of the government to advance the greater public interest.

Furthermore, we call on the Philippine government, as Chair of ASEAN for 2017, to demonstrate leadership in raising the peoples’ concerns against RCEP during the 18th round of talks here in Manila.

In the Chairman’s Statement from the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, Member States led by the Philippines, reiterated the common vision to build a truly inclusive, people-centered, and people-oriented ASEAN community and stressed the centrality of ASEAN in the RCEP talks.

We assert that RCEP and other new generation free trade and investment agreements ran counter to the vision of a people-centered ASEAN. Contrary to the view expressed by ASEAN leaders that the RCEP talks have progressed considerably, the direction of the talks have in fact moved backwards with the agenda becoming more ambitious therefore demanding deeper commitments from parties. RCEP has become in many respects worse than the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP.

Our opposition to RCEP is anchored on the following concerns:

RCEP is a threat to public health and peoples’ access to medicines. The proposed agreement with TPP+ provisions on intellectual property rights will make it harder for poor people in the region to access affordable medicines particularly life-saving drugs, and for governments to advance public health policies for the benefit of the poor. The IPR chapter and many other provisions in the proposed agreement could undermine State policies on public health enshrined in Constitutions and national health laws like the Cheaper Medicines law in the Philippines.

RCEP will give corporations–many of which have annual revenues bigger than the GDPs of most countries in ASEAN, the right to sue governments over public policies and regulations in secret, ad-hoc corporate courts.

The investor state dispute settlement provision or ISDS, which has been highly criticized in the context of TPP negotiations, should be strongly rejected as well by ASEAN governments as an instrument that will weakening the right of State to regulate investments in the name of the greater public interest.

RCEP will straight-jacket governments, curtailing their power to use public policies to advance development agenda by putting in place prohibitions on performance requirement such as policies on domestic content and export restrictions, policies that favor employment of locals over foreign workers or even those that push for technology transfer.

Amidst the continuing backlash against globalization policies that have disenfranchised and marginalized the working class, the imperative is really to push back on RCEP and new generation trade and investment agreements that advance the corporate agenda over peoples’ interests.

Labor groups raise grave concerns over RCEP

Representatives from major trade unions in both the public and private sectors have raised serious concerns on the possible impacts of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which is currently being negotiated in Manila: According to their analysis, prices of medicines may increase, government revenue decrease and the government’s ability to regulate foreign investments, service providers and transnational corporations may be constrained.

The analysis of the labor groups are based on leaked draft texts of the RCEP as no official document has been made public throughout the four years of negotiations. Only negotiators and key business representatives had access to the official documents. Even Congress has been blindsided. This seriously constrains the democratic process.

RCEP is a mega free trade and investment agreement negotiated between 16 countries in the Asian region- the 10 ASEAN countries plus India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

The proposal to have an international private arbitration process that ignores national laws and the Constitution and where investors can make multi-billion claims against governments was another concern raised by the groups.

At a meeting attended by major labor centers like SENTRO and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), affiliates of global union federations such as PSI, IndustriALL and BWI, solidarity support organization like SASK, and the Trade Justice Campaign – Pilipinas, held on May 5 2017 in Quezon City, Dave Diwa, of National Labor Union (NLU) called RCEP a “danger zone that governments should avoid at all costs. “Vicente Camilon, Jr of the TUCP added that “RCEP might constraint our government’s power to regulate, undermine national sovereignty, and limit it ability to pursue national development objectives.” Jullian Roque of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) further added that the deal could diminish public funds that should be devoted to basic social services.”

In contrast, the labor unions pointed out the corporate-bias of RCEP. Glen Pastorfide of the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) said that RCEP could strengthen the power of corporations while weakening policies that seek to protect and conserve our natural resources and ecosystems.”

Alan Tanjusay of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) pointed out that “RCEP has no social dimension. Our government will be prevented from instituting policies and regulations beneficial to working people.”

Wilson Fortaleza of the Partido ng Manggagawa concluded that “RCEP is a global corporate agenda of regional oligarchs.”

“Clearly, the RCEP is as bad as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, declared. “If Pres. Duterte rejected TPP, then he should, at the very least, be worried about RCEP as well,” he added.

Conclusions of the Global Campaign on the UNHRC 2nd Session of OEIGWG

Stop Corporate Impunity

Conclusions of the Global Campaign on the UNHRC 2nd Session of the “Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights” (OEIGWG) concluding on 28th October 2016

Geneva, 28 October 2016

In the context of the Second Session of the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) at the Human Rights Council with the mandate to establish a Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and End Impunity expressed its engagement with this process through several activities, actions and statements. The Campaign is committed to the importance of this process as a way to allow people affected by Transnational Corporations (TNCs) around the world access to justice.

The current process began in 2014 and succeeded in inserting the urgent need to create a binding tool to compel TNCs’ to respect Human Rights into the UN agenda. Many years of complicity between governments and TNCs, which has led to an increase of cases of repression, convince us more than ever of our demands. The people affected by TNCs are fed up with being victims and demand justice. Therefore, we reaffirm our resistance to the capture of this process by TNCs and we demand states to safeguard the Treaty negotiations from political interference and conflicts of interest.

Throughout one week, more than 100 activists, representing unions, peasant organizations, environmental organisations, youth, women, indigenous peoples, migrants and the access to medicines movements convened in Geneva to participate in and observe the proceedings within the UN. These activists represented 29 countries and shared their lived experiences in 15 activities both within and outside the formal spaces of the UN. Participants made 40 oral statements in the six panels of the session.

The Global Campaign participated actively in the debate. It presented 6 precise proposals for the binding instrument : on the obligations for TNCs, extraterritorial obligations; the instrument of enforcement, the responsibility of TNCs in the global supply chains; the architecture of the global corporate law (International Financial Institutions, the World Trade Organisation and the investment and trade regime); as well as the rights of the affected communities.

We are aware that during this process we will face important challenges. But we are committed to maintaining a high level of mobilization at both local and international levels. By doing so, we expect to have a concrete and positive Treaty proposal as the result of the work during the 3rd Session of the IGWG. With this objective, we call all movements and organizations – within and outside the Campaign – to join these efforts. We must pressure any governments opposing this process to change their perspective on the Binding Treaty proposal and recognize the urgent need for a legal instrument that puts people before profits, commercial interests and investment deals. This Saturday, concluding our week of mobilization, we will hold a demonstration in Geneva.

Signatories:

Articulación internacional de las afectadas y afectados por la VALE, Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) – Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Amigos da Terra Brasil, Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC,, Amigos de la Tierra España, Amis de la Terre France, ATM/Mining, Attac – España, Attac – Maroc, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) – Friends of the Earth Bangladesh, BDS, CCFD, CED – Friends of the Earth Camerun, CEDIB – Bolivia, Center on Governance and Sustainability, CESTA – Friends of the Earth El Salvador, CETIM, Comunidad de Barillas – Guatemala and CEIBA – Friends of the Earth Guatemala, Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de las Américas (CSA), Corporate Accountability International (CAI), Ecologistas en Acción, ENTREPUEBLOS, ERA – Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FASE, FIAN International, France Amérique Latine (FAL), Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), Global Forest Coalition, Grup de Treball sobre Empreses i Drets Humans (Catalunya), GTPI – Vigencia, HOMA, Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) – Sawit Watch – People’s Coalition for the Rights to Water (KruHA-Indonesia), Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) – WALHI – Solidaritas Perempuan – INDIES Indonesia – Indonesia Focal Point for Legally Binding Treaty Initiative -,Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, JA! – Friends of the Earth Mozambique, Justiça Global, La Via Campesina (LVC), LAB Euskal Herria, LAFEDE.CAT, Legal Resources Center (LRC), MAB – LVC, NOVACT, Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL), PACS, PENGON Palestine, “Popular Council for the Protection of the Jordan Valley – FOEI”, PSI, Radio Mundo Real, REDES – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay, “Red Sombra de Observadores de Glencore”, SENTRO/TU, SUDS, Taula Catalana per la Pau i els Drets Humans a Colòmbia, Tierra Digna, Transnational Migrant Platform Europe, Transform!europe, Transnational Institute (TNI), VIGENCIA, Unión de Afectados/as por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco (UDAPT), HOMA, WALHI – Friends of the Earth Indonesia, War on Want, WOMIN, World March of Women.

Sentro slams gov’t for the hellish traffic, troubles suffered by the public due to Apec

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INDEED, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation will not only further enrich Big Business and the ruling classes, it can also worsen even the everyday struggles of the ordinary people just like the horrendous traffic in Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares last Monday caused by the security overkill and abrupt vehicle rerouting imposed by the government in hosting the ongoing Apec summit.

Thousands of commuters were stranded for long hours in the roads, stressing them out, leaving them hungry, thirsty and weary, and vainly resisting the “call” of nature; obliging them to march for several kilometers in search of transport or series of transports that would take them to their work, school, appointments, and finally to go home. Precious time was lost and wasted; the meager daily transport and food budget was stretched to the limit; the measly wages and benefits were still deducted or vanished altogether when the poor workers failed to reach their workplaces on time. The usual few hours of one-way travel became a combination of almost a half-day walk and multiple rides. A woman was also forced to deliver her baby on the sidewalk because there were no vehicles plying the main streets, even an ambulance; there was a police mobile car but its occupants refused to drive her to the hospital – all because of overzealous “security” blanket.

This is clearly the height of insensitivity, of utter callousness, of total disregard for the welfare of the people, a twisted hospitality to foreign visitors, a security paranoia, an extreme of the extremes – just to please and appease a few!

What the Aquino administration did – along with the police, the military, and other government agencies, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which systematically rounded up and hid from Apec delegates’ view the Manila’s beggars and street people – are in fact reminiscent of Marcosian martial law’s “peace and order” as well as the Imeldific obsession for “the good, the true and the beautiful.”

Sacrificing and ignoring the welfare of the ordinary Filipino people just to gratify and entertain the Apec bigwigs and corporate honchos is no different from the heartlessness of the terrorists who have no qualms about inflicting maximum and collateral damage even among the innocent, harmless and helpless civilians.

Which reminds us again that this economic “cooperation” group does not deserve the support of each and every Filipino as it does not deserve the support of each and every citizen of the countries that it purportedly represents. And not only because it has created monstrous traffics and inconveniences; more so because Apec is decisively anti-poor, anti-worker and anti-people.

UNITY STATEMENT OF THE PEOPLES’ FORUM ON APEC 2015

Quezon City, Philippines – The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) project is both a defensive reaction to the deepening crisis of the world capitalist system and an effort to stabilize itself through a heightened market-driven regime. This was triggered by the 2008-2009 global economic meltdown that started in the US and spread throughout the global economic system. Led by the US and its major regional allies, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and Australia, the aim is to maintain and strengthen the dominance of major industrial market-based powers by expanding access to wider regional markets in order to maximize profits for their respective ruling classes and their home-based corporations.

APEC’s neoliberal thrusts are to intensify and expand state-sanctioned free-trade-oriented policies, finance-deregulation rules, privatization of essential services, labor contractualization, and the new scheme of public-private partnerships – all in line with the ongoing trend of corporate-led globalization. These are the core principles for which APEC stands for.

This US-led agenda for recovery and rebalancing is a triple-edged economic-political-military spearhead across the Asia Pacific region. Through the so-called ‘US Pivot’, Washington is amplifying its strategic shift towards the broader Asian sphere to exploit the area’s huge market potentials and its rich resources. At the same time, however, this leads the major industrial powers into direct economic competition and political rivalry with each other.

The theme formulated by the Philippine government for APEC 2015 is “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”. The Peoples’ Forum on APEC (PFA 2015), on the other hand, a broad coalition of civil society organizations and people’s movements, contends that such a theme is deceptive and is anchored on false promises.

The fact remains that, 26 years after APEC was conceived, little has changed across the Asia-Pacific region in terms of fundamental social structures. Despite high growth rates, social inequalities and vulnerabilities among the regions’ poor populations, especially in less developed societies, remain hallmarks of neoliberalism’s impact upon this vast territory.

Through the trade-finance mechanisms advanced by the likes of APEC, many significant social and economic gains have either been set aside or lost altogether. Major political advances won over the past by progressive mass movements, especially the international Left-led working class, have now officially been declared as irrelevant and labelled as potential threats to the universal growth and well-being of capitalist societies. Within this context, the APEC agenda has only managed to inflict immense socio-economic-political-ecological damage to the Asia-Pacific region’s societies, its peoples and the environment.

The crisis confronting the capitalist world reflects the irrationality of maintaining overcapacity and overproduction with shrinking markets. Deepening wealth and income inequalities have prevented the majority of working peoples from purchasing the goods produced by the system. To crawl out from this inherent contradiction, the US and its other imperialist cohorts are now endeavouring to create yet another regional market-oriented mechanism while angling to out-balance America’s top regional rival, China.

With APEC as a platform, Washington is aggressively pursuing its latest anti-stagnation concoction known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as a new regional neoliberal project but excluding China. This is in line with Washington’s plan to strategically fuse and realign its so-called ‘Pivot to Asia’ foreign policy direction around a more deliberate economic framework. The strategy is to form an “arc of denial” to contain China’s ambitions of expanding its influence beyond its borders and providing an alternative to US and Western hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US remains the world’s primary super power. It is able to maintain the world balance to its advantage largely because of its combined capacities in the economic, political, military, socio-cultural, and technological aspects. Due to this distinct advantage, it is, for the moment, able to offset the countervailing forces represented by China and Russia.

PFA 2015 has identified seven areas where crucial spheres of Asia-Pacific peoples’ lives are adversely affected. These are the following:

1. Trade and Investments:

· APEC’s trade and investment agenda is about supporting and consolidating the corporate agenda and is represented by a broad range of trade/investment-related free trade area (FTA) initiatives such as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), and the FTAAP (Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific);

· These new generation FTAs go far beyond trade and constitute broader economic agreements that cover trade, investments, intellectual property rights, and regulatory coherence. Corporations are granted enormous powers to challenge and sue governments on public policies that regulate investments in order to promote and pursue certain social, environmental, health, and labor policies but which are deemed detrimental to corporate profits.

2. Fiscal Justice and Trade:

· There is a growing trend of “international investment rule-making” with nominally sovereign states surrendering their say over economic and trade issues to external arbitration. This goes hand in hand with developed countries increasingly forging “mega-regional agreements”

· The effects would be: (a) reduced state revenues due to the elimination of import and export taxes; (b) the erosion of national sovereignty and fiscal autonomy with states forced to seek international arbitration procedures linked to investor-initiated legal cases; and, (c) increase in government indebtedness to compensate for trade liberalization-related revenue losses.

3. Social Impacts and Dimensions on Development:

· The social crisis is worsened as the corporate-driven approach removes safeguards for the people and the environment;

· Workers, farmers, women, and consumers are marginalized and become mere shock-absorbers of economic structural adjustment programs;

· Labor is “casualized” while the urban and rural poor are forcibly evicted from their communities to make way for elite projects (e.g. special economic zones, property development, and resorts) which benefit only a few.

4. Food and Agriculture:

· Trade liberalization greatly affects indigenous-based subsistence agriculture by bankrupting small-scale indigenous farmers who are forced to produce high-input crops, as opposed to indigenous/organic crops;

· State support is drastically reduced in favor of privatization, domestic production is endangered, and landlessness worsens.

· Control by domestic and transnational corporations is expanded over food production, trade and distribution through public-private partnership arrangements, adoption of IPR on plant and agriculture investment incentives.

· Food and environmental safety are compromised with the commercialization of GMO crops.

· Increased exploitation of agriculture and natural resources including marine resources in favor of big agribusiness companies to the detriment of small farmers, municipal fishers and IPs dependent on these for their subsistence.

5. Climate, Renewable Energy and Environmental Justice:

· APEC 2015 is being held just two weeks before the 21st Paris Conference of Parties (COP21) December. Since the APEC includes countries that are the top Annex-1 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emitters, the US being the world’s leading historical emitter, we need to see what their national responses during the APEC Summit;

· While the US and China are now both publicly committed to a reduction of their dirty energy-use, Southeast Asia is instead moving towards more dirty energy projects. The contradiction for the latter is that Southeast Asia remains one of the most vulnerable regions of the world in terms of food security and climate change disasters.

6. Democracy and Human Rights:

· Human rights does not figure in APEC’s scope of over forty (40) areas of concern. This glaringly major gap simply reflects the reality of a “Corporate Capture of States”;

· UN principles and resolutions have outlined the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the urgent need for an“Elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”.

· A “human rights respect-redress clause” must be embedded in all trade and investment agreements, including a mandatory Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) in extractive industries.

7. Regional Peace and Security:

· Even as APEC’s official scope of focus is on economic and trade-related matters, a major issue of concern is the question of regional peace and security;

· The US ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy is aimed at directly countering China’s own expansionist plans and securing its own market access;

· The US is now aggressively expanding its military presence across and beyond the APEC region and continues to strengthen and enhance its regional security alliances with Japan, Australia and the Philippines through interoperability joint military exercises;

· These moves confirm that powerful countries are securing their own national economic interests by pursuing militarist options instead of exploring other ways of peaceful regional cooperation.

Asian peoples and their mass movements need to confront the corporate-led agenda and the continuing elite-capture of the economic policies and practices underpinning multilateral trade/investment agreements, such as the APEC. The response, therefore, is to form a broad global front of progressive peoples’ movements that would expose the disastrous effects of capitalist neoliberal strategies and challenge them at every opportunity. In many countries ravaged by policies and programs engendered by these strategies, mass movements have confronted their respective governments and international institutions and struggled for a reversal of the neoliberal agenda.

This is graphically illustrated by the “Battle of Seattle”, the “Occupy Movement”, global gatherings such as the annual “World Social Forum”, the peasant-based “Via Campesina”, parallel civil society forums at meetings of multilateral financial institutions (i.e. the WB, IMF, ADB, etc.) and regional free trade groups (ASEAN, APEC, etc.), among others. At the national level, we salute the gains of national movements in thwarting inroads of neo-liberal globalization – agrarian movements installing poor peasants in their lands, anti-mining movements, food sovereignty movements against privatization, etc.

On the electoral front, palpable is the capture of state power by leftwing socialist parties in most of Latin America and in Greece, and the ascendancy of radical left parties and leaders in Spain and the UK. In Asia, left parties have governed in Nepal, Timor Leste and in some Indian states while the recent landslide electoral victory of the NLD in Burma bodes well for democracy movements. Among scholars, academics and students, there is a growing trend of unorthodox approaches to economic theories and practices that reject the neoliberal approach. People-to-people networks across countries and regions have also been established on issues such as workers’ control, human rights, climate justice, women’s rights, LGBT concerns, peasant and indigenous peoples’ rights, and alternative education.

Such challenges to neoliberalism and corporate-led globalization need to be expanded and sustained. The crying need is to build, consolidate and strengthen broad platforms of resistance against the global economic paradigm that is being foisted on Asian societies and their peoples. The neoliberal capitalist system is not working; it needs to be overhauled and replaced with a humane and radical alternative. Let our voices be heard and our actions be decisive!