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.
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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.
In the recent[c1] “RCEP 18th Round of Talks,” members of civil society organizations and social movements presented their positions vis-à-vis the RCEP during the official Stakeholders’ Engangement, focusing on its impacts on trade, labor, and resources. They argued against the RCEP as it will give more power to already powerful corporations while making worse the state of employment and labor conditions for workers.