The EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network, a regional campaign network called the revival of trade negotiations between the European Union and the ASEAN, a “wrong move” that could further exacerbate inequality and erosion of peoples rights in the region.
Reacting to news reports that quoted Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, announcing “exploratory discussions” of an ASEAN-EU working group, EU-ASEAN Network issued the following statement:
It is important to recall why the EU-ASEAN talks were suspended in 2009. The talks were put on the back burner, not simply as news articles report, “to give way to bilateral talks between select ASEAN member states”, but rather because the EU was not satisfied with the level of ambition that ASEAN, negotiating as a block, was willing and able to put on the table. In short, the EU wanted a comprehensive, ambitious new generation free trade agreement with ASEAN, that includes all the problematic provisions like ISDS, which allows corporations to sue governments, and IPR which would undermine public health and peoples access to more affordable medicines.
In reviving the talks, ASEAN should get its act together, and negotiate this with the interest of the poorest members and the poorest and marginalized sectors in mind. A big challenge is seeing to it that the agreement could help resolve the development imbalance within the 10 ASEAN countries.
Another sticky point in the EU-ASEAN talks is the question of human rights. The EU simply could not move forward with the region-to-region talks in 2009, because ASEAN was insisting it would negotiate as one, which means including Myanmar, with its sordid HR record.
Fast-forward to 2017 and we see practically the entire region slipping into authoritarianism, where people are facing enormous challenges to their human rights.
It puzzles us as well why the EU-ASEAN initiative is being revived now when Asean countries are busy with RCEP and TPPA. And what is the value added for Asean countries.
Rather than push for the revival of the EU-ASEAN talks and the conclusion of another ambitious agreement- the RCEP, ASEAN governments should heed the call of the people and instead initiate a comprehensive and participatory process to review these deals from the purview of their impact on peoples lives and human rights.#
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