The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (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 May 2-12 in Manila, Philippines. The RCEP talks gained more prominence recently in the wake of the US’ withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPPA and the strong push from countries like Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand to bring TPP standards to the RCEP negotiating table.
Previously seen as a China-led FTA, the just concluded round of RCEP talks showed[J1] that the negotiating positions of the 16 parties gravitated towards key alliances. Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, the so-called TPP 4, comprised the group pushing for TPP+ provisions in RCEP on many issues, ranging from intellectual property rights to investments and e-commerce. ASEAN on the other hand forged regional unity around key issues guided by common principles and objectives, and the members asserted the centrality of the regional body in the RCEP talks. India, on the other hand, was the lone voice that raised particular concerns on further opening up trade in goods, particularly from the agricultural sector. While raising some concerns as well on certain aspects of the talks such as goods and e-commerce, China was seen as pushing for more ambitious investment chapter seeking to protect its growing investments across Asia and the Pacific.
The Philippines as Chair of ASEAN for 2017 will continue to play a key role in the forthcoming 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 the 20th round, where parties are hoping to finally conclude the negotiations.
Focus on the Global South is part of the regional campaign on RCEP. Our offices in Manila, Thailand, and India continue to work within broad national platforms to spearhead national campaigns against RCEP and other new generation FTAs.
The recently held 18th round of RCEP talks in Manila saw the convergence of various social movements and civil society organizations in coordinated inside and outside actions on RCEP. This special issue of Focus Newsletter features statements and analyses from allies in the Trade Justice-Pilipinas campaign platform and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples' Forum (ACSC/APF 2017), and all other actions and pronouncements issued throughout the NO RCEP week of action. – Joseph Purugganan
[J1]The alliances have been observed even before the round in Manila. So maybe better to just say that “the continuing talks have reveaked nego positions have converged around key alliances
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