India: Unions, civil society oppose secret trade talks

August 5, 2017
July 24 protest against RCEP in Hyderabad.

As the 19th round of trade negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) took place in Hyderabad, India from 17-28 July, trade unions and civil society groups in the country have joined forces to voice concerns over the trade deal, and called for more transparency. 

RCEP is a proposed mega regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated by 16 countries, including ASEAN members and its six FTA partners — namely India, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The 16 participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population, almost 30% of global GDP and more than a quarter of world exports.

RCEP negotiations consist of roughly 23 chapters and aim to rewrite trade and regulatory rules in areas including trade in agricultural and industrial goods, investment, intellectual property rights, services, competition policies and e-commerce.

At a convention held on July 23, under the banner “People’s Resistance Forum against FTAs and RCEP”, 600 people from across India representing trade unions, farmers, agricultural workers, patient groups, public health activists, NGOs, street vendors, human rights activists, academics and many others, gathered in Hyderabad. They resolved to build a broad-based people’s movement to resist the RCEP.

Taking part in the convention, SQ Zama of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Indian National Metalworkers’ Federation, said: “RCEP the mega FTA will have serious implications for workers' rights and will limit government’s policy space to formulate suitable development and employment policies.

“We oppose the investor state dispute settlement provisions as they shift the rules of the global economy in favour of corporations and against workers.

“We call for transparency and democratic process in the RCEP negotiations. Trade unions will join hands with people’s movements to resist RCEP in its present form.”

[Abridged from]

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