Asia and the Mega Free Trade Agreements

By Joseph Purugganan

Very few people know about them, but new generation free trade agreements have become powerful instruments in shaping how development is pursued in the 21st Century. And rapidly growing Asia has become a major hub of FTA engagements.

PDF version available here

On May 10, 2017, more than 30 members of civil society and sectoral groups converged inside the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila to participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) “Stakeholder Engagement” – a dialogue with trade negotiators from the 16 RCEP negotiating countries. The meeting, which ran for almost three hours, was an opportunity for civil society organizations (CSOs) to air not just concerns, but their collective opposition to RCEP. The fear from civil society is that the highly ambitious trade and investment agreement will impact negatively on jobs and people’s livelihoods, on health services and access to affordable medicines, on farmers’ rights to seeds, and on small fishers’ access to marine resources.

Concerns were also raised on broader issues like investments and the threats to public policies and regulations from the investor-state-dispute-settlement provisions in RCEP.

Another fundamental concern raised was the lack of transparency and the democratic deficit hounding the negotiations themselves. While a stakeholder engagement process was initiated recently in the RCEP talks, the reality is that people are shut out of the process. There has been no public disclosure of negotiating texts, and campaigners rely on leaked documents and texts from previously concluded agreements as bases for their analysis and interventions.

Very few people know about them, but new generation free trade agreements (FTAs) have become powerful instruments in shaping how development is pursued in the 21st Century. And rapidly growing Asia has become a major hub of FTA engagements.

The rise of mega FTAs

What trade campaigners are up against is a whole landscape of so-called mega regional trade and investment agreements.  All the major trade powers- the United States, the European Union, China, and Japan- are aggressively pushing these deals to secure their respective economic and political interests.  Over the past couple of years however, negotiations for these big trade deals have been faltering, prompting one analyst to declare that “the era of the big trade deal is certainly in hibernation. The question now is whether it is dead altogether.”[1]

The difficulties in seeing these negotiations through can be attributed to a combination of factors.  There is the complexity of the trade deals themselves—covering so many chapters, and dealing with varying sets of rules, across several countries and continents. The negotiations for these mega FTAs have also been affected by changing tides in domestic politics, with the election of Trump in the US causing the greatest disruption.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal was the erstwhile gold standard among these mega agreements. Negotiations among 12 Pacific-rim countries (US, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Peru and 4 ASEAN member states- Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam) resulted in a comprehensive agreement containing 30 chapters covering goods, services, intellectual property rights, investments, government procurement, regulatory coherence, e-commerce, among others. After 19 formal negotiating rounds and several more ministerial meetings dating back to 2010, the negotiations were completed in October 2015 and the comprehensive and highly ambitious deal was signed and sealed by all parties in February 2016.

To take effect however, the agreement had to undergo ratification by February 2018 by at least six countries that account for 85% of the group's economic output. TPP countries account for around US$ 27.6 trillion of global GDP, with the United States accounting for close to 57% at $15.7 trillion. This means that the US would definitely need to be on board to meet that last condition. And so with a stroke of his pen, US President Donald Trump formalized the exit of the United States from the deal that successive US administrations before him had carefully steered for close to a decade.

Japan however, wants to revive the TPP and has suggested that some sort of alternative deal may be possible without the US.  Japan Finance Minister Taro Aso was quoted in the Financial Times saying “(W)e will start talks on an eleven-member TPP, minus the US at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in May.[2]  Finance Minister Aso’s statement represents a U-turn from the earlier pronouncement of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in January of this year where he said that “TPP without the US - and its market of 250 million consumers - would be meaningless.”[3]

Whether or not the TPP can be revived without the US or whether a new deal among the 11 countries (minus the US) can be forged is still not clear. What is clear though is that RCEP has since gained much significance in the wake of the TPP debacle and is now being seen as a platform to put in place rules and standards agreed upon under the TPP.

RCEP, the biggest game in town

The RCEP, a mega-regional free trade agreement being negotiated by the 10-member ASEAN regional bloc and its FTA partners, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, held its 18th round of talks from May 2-12 2017 in Manila, Philippines.  

The economies of the 16-country RCEP account for around $22.8 trillion, or roughly around 30% of the global economy.[4] The aggregate figure however, belies the asymmetry that exists within RCEP. 

In terms of Gross National Income (GNI), China with its $10.83 trillion economy is easily the biggest in RCEP. A distant second is Japan with $4.9 trillion, followed by India with $2.08 trillion. In comparison, the economies of the three least developed countries in ASEAN- Myanmar (0.57 %) Cambodia (0.15 %) and Lao PDR (0.10 %) - account for less than half of one percent of China’s huge economy.[5]

In terms of per capita GNI, Australia tops all RCEP countries with per capita income of $60,050. This is closely followed by Singapore ($52,090), New Zealand ($40,020), Japan ($38,840), and Brunei ($38,010).  Based on GNI figures from the World Bank, seven countries in RCEP (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and India) are classified as low-middle income countries, while three countries (China, Malaysia, and Thailand) fall within the upper-middle income classification. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Japan, and Korea on the other hand are classified as high income economies.

This development asymmetry poses the biggest challenge for governments in RCEP. How parties can forge an agreement that is ambitious enough to satisfy the needs of the high and middle-income economies while also recognizing the development agenda of the poorer and smaller economies.

Compared to the TPP, the RCEP had largely been viewed as a more moderate agreement, although as we will discuss later, the RCEP agenda has also moved closer and in certain areas even going beyond the TPP standards.

Previously seen as a China-led FTA, the continuing talks have revealed that negotiating positions of the 16 parties are gravitating towards key alliances.[6]

Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand comprise the so-called TPP 4; the group pushing for TPP+ provisions in RCEP on many issues from intellectual property rights to investments and e-commerce.

India represents a lone voice raising particular concerns related to further opening up of trade in goods, particularly in the agricultural sector. While raising some concerns as well on certain aspects of the talks like goods and e-commerce, China is seen as pushing for a more ambitious investment chapter seeking to protect its growing investments across Asia and the Pacific.

ASEAN on the other hand is forging regional unity around key issues guided by common principles and objectives, and asserting the centrality of ASEAN in the RCEP talks. In the recently concluded ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila last April 2017, governments from the 10-ASEAN countries came out with a declaration articulating its collective stand on RCEP.

They welcomed the progress made in the RCEP negotiations and the “need to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial RCEP Agreement, which has the potential to boost global economic growth, deepen regional economic integration and facilitate equitable economic development for all RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs).” Finally, the Heads of States of ASEAN “instructed (our) Ministers and negotiators to redouble efforts building on the good momentum achieved thus far and reiterated our call to uphold ASEAN Centrality in finding resolutions to outstanding issues.”

Furthermore, ASEAN governments reiterated their “commitment to work together in a cooperative manner in line with the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP towards the swift conclusion of the RCEP negotiations.”[7]

Aside from asserting ASEAN centrality in the talks, the guiding principles and objectives of ASEAN in negotiating RCEP also include a principle that could very well temper the push of Japan, Korea and others to increase the ambition of RCEP.

ASEAN governments stated that being cognizant of “the different levels of development of the participating countries, the RCEP will include appropriate forms of flexibility including provision for special and differential treatment, plus additional flexibility to the least-developed ASEAN Member States, consistent with the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, as applicable.”[8]

The Philippines, as Chair of ASEAN for 2017, will play a key role in the RCEP talks. After the 18th round of negotiations, the talks will move to Hyderabad, India, for the 19th round in July, before moving back to the Philippines in September for a Ministerial Meeting, and then to South Korea in October for the 20th round of talks, where parties are hoping to finally conclude the negotiations.

How the various groupings in the talks are able to muster and consolidate support for their positions will determine whether the RCEP talks will produce a TPP-like highly ambitious agreement, or a more moderate agreement that takes into consideration the asymmetries that exists among the parties.

FTAs as threat to Human Rights and Sovereignty

The most critical issues are around the most ambitious elements of these mega deals, the ones that distinguish them from older generation free trade agreements.

Intellectual Property Rights

The first issue is on intellectual property rights (IPR).  The IPR chapter in new generation agreements is often referred to as TRIPS+, in reference to the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO TRIPS Agreement inserted intellectual property rights as an integral component of trade agreements. By doing so, the TRIPS Agreement, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “introduced global minimum standards for protecting and enforcing nearly all forms of intellectual property rights (IPR), including those for patents.” [9] WHO adds that by signing on to the agreement, “WTO member countries including over 40 countries that did not grant patent protection for pharmaceutical products prior to TRIPS, were now required, with few exceptions, to adapt their laws to the minimum standards of IPR protection.”[10]

Even these so-called minimum standards on IPR protection, are viewed as having led to “significant loss of policy flexibilities especially for developing countries in regulating the grant and use of pharmaceutical patents and controlling the cost of medicines.”[11]

The TRIPS+ IPR chapter in RCEP and new generation FTAs will force developing countries to comply with even more stringent IPR standards beyond commitments made under the WTO.  Given the clear disparity among RCEP countries in the existing levels of IPR protection, it is not hard to see why IPR is such a contentious element of these agreements.

Among the RCEP countries, Singapore (4th), New Zealand (6th), Japan (14th), and Australia (16th) rank highest in terms of IPR protection.  While Thailand (121st), Cambodia (130th) and Myanmar* (134th) are at the tail end of the global rankings.[12]



Global Competitiveness Index on IPR protection
















Rep of Korea








New Zealand










Source: Compiled by author from the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017. Klaus Schab, Ed. World Economic Forum.   Myanmar’s ranking is based on the 2015-2016 report.

Stronger IPR protection in trade agreements has been criticized across Asia as a serious threat to access to medicines and public health. A 2012 report by the UN Development Program and UNAIDS on the potential impact of free trade agreements on public health issued a strong warning to state leaders against trade agreements that inflate the price of medications and deny access to lifesaving treatments for poor citizens across the globe.

The report thus concludes that:

“To retain the benefits of TRIPS Agreement flexibilities, countries, at minimum should avoid entering into FTAs that contain TRIPS-plus obligations that can impact on pharmaceuticals price or availability. Where countries have undertaken TRIPS-plus commitments, all efforts should be made to mitigate the negative impact of these commitments on access to treatment by using to the fullest extent possible, remaining public health related flexibilities available.”[13]

The IPR chapter is also seen as undermining farmers’ rights.  The IPR chapter in RCEP will force countries to comply with UPOV 91[14], an international convention that has been highly criticized by farmers organizations and support groups for “eliminating the right of farmers to save privatized seeds and also limited what other plant breeders can do with that seed.”[15] Focus on the Global South analyst, Afsar Jafri, sees this as part of a strong push towards corporate agriculture and agribusiness, and a concerted effort to undermine farmers’ rights.[16]

Among the 16 RCEP countries, only five countries (Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam) are parties to UPOV 1991. China and New Zealand are members of the UPOV but have not signed on to the 1991 Act of the convention, while the remaining 9 countries (Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand) are not even members of UPOV.

Countries that are not a party to UPOV and UPOV 1991 however, are being made to ratify or accede to UPOV 1991 and or comply with UPOV 1991 standards.  In the case of the Philippines for example, the Department of Agriculture sought from UPOV Council an examination of conformity to UPOV 1991 of the country’s Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002.  The Council was then asked to “advise the Government of the Philippines that the Law incorporates the majority of the provisions of the 1991 Act, but still needs some clarifications and amendments, as provided in this document, in order to conform with the 1991 Act; once the above clarifications and amendments are incorporated in the Law, the Government of the Philippines is invited to request the examination of the amended law as provided in Article 34(3) of the 1991 Act;[17]

The Philippine experience, and those of other countries that are being made to amend their national laws, shows the tremendous influence that international standard setting conventions like UPOV have on domestic policies, with far reaching implications on how a country can pursue development of its agriculture sector and secure the livelihoods of its farmers and food producers.


Investor Protection and Right to Regulate

Another major issue across the region is the investor state dispute settlement mechanism, or ISDS, a provision in the investment chapter of RCEP and all new generation FTAs. 

In its intervention during the RCEP Stakeholder Engagement in Manila, Focus on the Global South (Focus) outlined the main points of criticism against ISDS, to wit:

“RCEP through ISDS will give corporations--many of which have annual revenues bigger than the GDPs of most countries in ASEAN, and therefore have more economic power compared to governments in these countries-- the right and even more power to sue governments over public policies and regulations in secret, ad-hoc tribunals.  These tribunals or more appropriately, corporate courts, have handed down million dollar rulings that have penalized governments over regulatory actions to defend public health, pursue more inclusive development, protect the environment, and public interest in general.”

Focus highlighted “the dramatic increase in the number of ISDS cases” over the last decade, and that in 2016, investors initiated 62 known ISDS cases- a figure higher than the 10-year average of 49 cases from 2006-2015. UNCTAD estimates that the total number of publicly known arbitration cases against host countries has now reached 767.”[18]

Within RCEP, all countries with the exception of Brunei have at least one ISDS case under its name. India tops the list with a total of 25 cases (21 as a respondent state, and 4 as host country of claimant). Indonesia has 7 cases, followed by Malaysia, Korea, and China with 6 each, Philippines with 5 cases, and Vietnam and Australia with 4 cases each. Singapore and Laos have 3 a piece, although in the case of Singapore, all three cases are as home state of claimant.  Japan has 2 cases, while Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia have one case each.[19]

A 2016 civil society report pointed out that “foreign investors have claimed at least 31 billion USD from RCEP countries. This amount is 7 billion USD more than India’s entire health budget for 2015.[20]

The report adds that “of the 31 billion USD claimed by investors, 81% has been claimed from just four countries, India, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam. The largest known amount paid to a foreign investor by an RCEP country is 337 million USD as part of the settlement in the Cemex versus Indonesia case.”[21]

Focus asserted in its intervention that “the signing of more investment treaties, including FTAs with more expansive investment chapters like RCEP, are partly to blame for the rise in ISDS cases. Clearly these agreements have emboldened the corporations to use this mechanism to challenge the States’ right to regulate.  More than 60 % of awards handed down by these tribunals in favor of corporations are between US10 million to over a billion. Add to this the enormous cost of litigation, it is not hard to surmise the tremendous strain these cases exact on public budgets and therefore the ability of governments to support development goals and the public welfare.”[22]

Focus adds that “ISDS is a tool only for corporations. There is no recourse available for communities that face the negative impacts of these investments to challenge these corporations in the face of human rights violations, destruction of the environment, loss of livelihoods resulting from these investments.”[23]

The rising number of cases has caused the governments in certain countries to review their existing bilateral investment treaties that give such power to corporations. In the Focus intervention, we “commended the efforts of India, Indonesia and the Philippines, in pushing for processes that aim to rebalance the need for investments and for policy space anchored on the governments’ right to regulate. These efforts show that governments are now taking a more balanced and cautious approach towards trade and investment treaties; and that public policies are paramount to corporate interests. RCEP therefore with its expansive investment chapter and ISDS will constitute a step back from these progressive efforts.”[24]

A new proposal on ISDS has apparently been tabled by Indonesia and the Philippines, and this proposal has been cited as a factor causing further delays in the RCEP talks.  According to insiders, the proposal touches on the consent provision and is anchored on the idea that investors must seek the consent of States to any ISDS case brought against it. In the ASEAN FTA with Australia and New Zealand, the Philippines took a position that “the submission of a claim under the ICSID Convention and the ICSID Rules of Procedure for Arbitration Proceedings shall be subject to a written agreement between the disputing parties in the event that an investment dispute arises.”[25]

Beyond the text

In order to fully understand the significance and implications of these mega deals, one needs to look at the bigger picture and see how these deals fit into what many have referred to as the 21st Century trade and investment regime.


There is a big push in Asia for the agenda of connectivity.  Two big regional blocs, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEAN have formulated their respective blueprints or framework documents on connectivity, outlining the agenda for physical connectivity involving infrastructure projects in the field of regional road and transportation networks as well as big energy; institutional connectivity involving structural reforms, trade facilitation, modernizing customs, and improving supply chain performance; and the third aspect of people to people connectivity which includes agenda on tourism development, labor mobility, student exchanges among others.

Connectivity underlines as well the Belt and Road Initiative of China, a highly ambitious development project meant to spur economic development across Asia and beyond anchored on massive infrastructure investments estimated to cost as much as $900 billion.  The Belt and Road Initiative is also seen by some analysts as China’s “geopolitical gambit in order to boost China’s regional clout at a time when Donald Trump’s US looks to be stepping back from Asia.”[26]

Governments across the region seem to be taking their cue and have stepped up infrastructure spending, utilizing various public-private partnership schemes and financing arrangements with China in particular.

In the Philippines for example, the Duterte administration has rolled out an economic agenda, branded as Dutertenomics, which is anchored on massive infrastructure spending.  According to Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, the Philippine government is planning to spend a total of P8.4 trillion or $175 million during the six-year Duterte administration so that the share of infrastructure spending in the gross domestic product would rise from 5.4 percent this year to 7.4 percent in 2022.[27]

The enthusiasm for these proposed million dollar projects are tempered by growing concerns on how these projects will be financed and their impact on the country’s foreign debt.  An article in Forbes Magazine by political risk analyst Anders Corr underscored the dangers posed by these massive infrastructure deals.  According to Corr, (the infrastructure projects) “could increase current Philippine national government debt of approximately $123 billion to as much as $452 billion, bringing Philippines’ debt to GDP ratio to 197%, second-to-worst in the world.”[28] 

Corporate Control

Another key element of the global trade and investment regime raising a lot of concerns is the corporate capture of economic policies.  The mega FTAs represent a key tool pushing the corporate agenda.  Trade Justice Pilipinas, a broad campaign platform on trade and investment policies in the Philippines, underscored its critique of the corporate agenda underpinning RCEP and other new generation trade and investment agreements.

“RCEP like TPP is advancing a corporate agenda that would threaten public health and peoples access to medicines. The strong push from Japan and Korea for TPP-provisions on intellectual property rights in the RCEP negotiations 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.

“RCEP like TPP is advancing the corporate agenda by pushing for an investment regime that will give corporations the right to sue the government over policies and regulations. Under the infamous Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism or ISDS, corporations are given the power to take legal action against the State in private and exclusive investment arbitration courts.  ISDS, which has been highly criticized in the context of TPP negotiations, should be strongly rejected as well by governments across Asia as an instrument for weakening the right of State to regulate investments in the name of the greater public interest.

“RCEP like TPP will further curtail the power of governments 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.”[29]

Human Rights

Trade and human rights issues have also been in the spotlight in the wake of worsening human rights conditions across much of Asia.  This has prompted trade advocates to work more closely with human rights networks in pushing a trade and human rights agenda that includes calls for a comprehensive human rights impact assessment of trade and investment agreements.  Civil society concerns have been echoed by Alfred de Zayas, a United Nations Independent Expert, on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. De Zayas notes that “It is high time to mainstream human rights into all trade agreements and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and regulations, so that trade representatives and dispute-settlers know that trade is neither a 'stand alone' regime nor an end in itself.”[30]

People’s Resistance

Over the years, we have seen people’s resistance to trade deals undergo major ups and downs. In Asia, there have been a number of key moments where social movements, CSOs, and academics have come together under broad people’s platforms against the WTO.  These include the Indian Platform Against the WTO and the Stop the New Round Coalition in the Philippines, that have mobilized thousands of workers, farmers, fishers, women, and spearheaded the public debate on the WTO and its impacts on people’s lives. 

The actions around the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in 2005 were also a watershed moment for the anti-globalization movement in Asia, as activists from across the region joined a concerted effort to push back on the Doha Round negotiations. 

While the trade campaigns across the region have waned since then, as groups grappled with the challenge of confronting threats coming from multiple fronts, including the barrrage of bilateral and regional FTAs, as well as growing concerns over climate change, the push for mega FTAs ironically gave the movement a new reason to consolidate and heighten the resistance.  We have seen a revitalization of trade campaigns across Europe, anchored on the oppostion to the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP), and the Canada-EU FTA (CETA), as well as across North America and the Pacific with the TPP, and across Asia and the Pacific with RCEP.

National and regional campaigns are drawing the interest and participation of various sectors and movements working on specific issues and thematic concerns.

The right to health and access to medicines have become major concerns of civil society networks monitoring various negotiations for free trade agreements in Southeast Asia. Various multi-stakeholder platforms that include trade campaigners, health advocates and practitioners, consumer groups, and social movements have emerged across the region to spearhead concerted campaigns and actions against these provisions and to assert the right to public health.[31]

Farmers’ and fishers’ groups have continued to articulate issues around the impact of trade deals on agriculture, the aggressive push of corporate agriculture, and the efforts to undermine farmers’ rights.  The international peasant movement La Via Campesina, has been at the forefront of trade campaigning across Asia. La Via Campesina members have not only spearheaded campaigns against the WTO at national and regional levels, they continue to be an integral part of the current efforts to push back new generation FTAs, and perhaps more importantly continue to put agriculture and food issues on the agenda.  The peasant resistance to these trade deals is also anchored on a proposal for an alternative: agroecology towards food sovereignty.  La Via Campesina continues to advance agroecology as a “key form of resistance to an economic system that puts profit before life.”[32]

In May 2016, the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNSRIP) organized a consultation among indigenous groups and trade campaigners in the Asia-Pacific region on international investment agreements.  UNSRIP Victoria Tauli-Corpuz had earlier submitted a report to the UN Secretary General on the impact of international investment and free trade on the human rights of indigenous peoples.  The report drew attention to the fact that “investment clauses of free trade agreements and bilateral and multilateral investment treaties, as they are currently conceptualized and implemented, have actual and potential negative impacts on indigenous peoples’ rights, in particular on their rights to self-determination, lands, territories and resources; participation; and free prior, and informed consent.”[33] An increasing number of indigenous peoples organizations and networks continue to be engaged in RCEP and other trade campaigns.

Broad campaign platforms at the national level have also emerged, such as the Forum against FTAs in India, FTA Watch in Thailand, and the Trade Justice-Pilipinas in the Philippines, which serve as mechanisms for social movements, sectoral groups and CSOs to consolidate positions, engage governments across a wide-range of issues, initiate public education, and lead national campaigns against these unjust agreements.

Asian movements are also active players in global campaigns such as the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, a network of over 200 social movements, networks, organizations and affected communities resisting the land grabs, extractive mining, exploitative wages and environmental destruction of TNCs in different global regions, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The campaign is advancing on another front: that of resisting corporate power, and pushing for a legally binding instrument to regulate the power of TNCS.



[1] Barker, Tyson (2016). How TTIP Lost Steam. Foreign Affairs. Online:

[2] Harding, Robin (2017).Japan seeks to bring Pacific trade deal back from the dead, in Financial Times. Online: April 2017.

[3] BBC (2017). TPP: What is it and Why does it Matter?. online 23 January 2017

[4]World Bank data. Online: accessed May 2017.

[5] World Bank. New Country classifications by income level. Online: Accessed May 2017.

[6] Notes from discussions with Professor Jane Kelsey at the CSO forum on RCEP held in Manila last May 4, 2017.

[7] Chairman’s Statements from the 30th ASEAN Summit held 29 April 2017 in Manila. Online: 30 April 2017.

[8] ASEAN Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Online: accessed May 2017.

[9] World Health Organization. WTO and the TRIPS Agreement online: Accessed May 2017

[10]World Health Organization. WTO and the TRIPS Agreement online: Accessed May 2017

[11]Musungu, S. and Oh, C., The Use of Flexibilities in TRIPS by Developing Countries: Can They Promote Access to Medicines?, Study 4C, Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH), August 2005. Available at 

[12] Schwab, Klaus. Ed,. Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017. World Economic Forum. Online; September 2016.

[13] UNAIDS, UNDP (2012) The Potential Impact of Free Trade Agreements on Public Health. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 2012. Online:

[14] UPOV is the French acronym for The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. UPOV91 stands for the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991)

[15] GRAIN (2015) UPOV 91 and other seed laws: A basic primer on how companies intend to control and monopolize seed. Online:

[16] Presentation notes at Agroecology Encounter of Via Campesina. June 2017 in Sri Lanka.

[17]UPOV (2007) Examination of conformity of the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002 with the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention. online:

[18] Purugganan, Joseph. Impact of RCEP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Presentation at the RCEP Stakeholder Engagement in Manila. April 2017. Online:

[20] Friends of the Earth (2016) The Hidden Costs of RCEP and Corporate Trade Deals in Asia. online:

[21] Friends fo the The Hidden Costs of RCEP and Corporate Trade Deals in Asia. online:

[22] Purugganan, Joseph. Impact of RCEP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Presentation at the RCEP Stakeholder Engagement in Manila. April 2017. Online:

[23]Purugganan, Joseph. Impact of RCEP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Presentation at the RCEP Stakeholder Engagement in Manila. April 2017. Online:

[24] Purugganan, Joseph. Impact of RCEP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Presentation at the RCEP Stakeholder Engagement in Manila. April 2017. Online:

[25] Agreement Establishing The ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area. Online:

[26] Phillips, Tom (2017) The $900bn question: What is the Belt and Road initiative? The Guardian. 12 May 2017. Online:

[27] De Vera Ben, et al. (2017) Dutertenomics: ‘Golden Age of Infrastructure’. In Philippine Daily Inquirer. Online: 

[28] Corr, Anders (2017) New Philippine Debt of $167 Billion Could Balloon To $452 Billion: China Will Benefit. Forbes Magazine. May 13, 2017. Online:

[29] Trade Justice-Pilipinas Statement during the 17th Round of RCEP talks in Kobe Japan. Online: 2017

[30] UN News Centre. Trade Agreements should Mainstream Human Rights-UN expert urges. UN News Service. Online:

[31] Focus on the Global South and EU-ASEAN FTA Network (2014) Access Delayed=Access Denied: Trade, Intellectual Property Rights and Peoples' Struggle for Access to Medicines in Southeast Asia. Focus on the Global South and EU-ASEAN Network. Online:

[32] Declaration of the International Forum on Agroecology in Nyeleni, Mali. February 2015.

[33] Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of indigenous peoples on the impact of international investment and free trade on the human rights of indigenous peoples. A_HRC _ 33_42_E.docx


Special Feature: 
Focus on the Global South
Date of publication: 
Thu, 2017-07-20

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