Trade and Investment
2015 is a significant year in the history of the International Free trade regime, as its key multilateral instrument, the World Trade Organization (WTO), completes 20 years. Two decades of the WTO have raised many questions, most significantly, is the WTO relevant to small and marginal farmers in the Global South? This question remains relevant as developing countries continue to fight for protection and gains for their small and marginal farmers.
More than 80 participants representing trade unions, farming communities, indigenous peoples, health networks, women’s organisations, academia and civil society organizations met on 27-28 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to take stock of the new generation of mega regional free trade agreements (FTAs) emerging in the region. The group shared concerns on the threats to people’s lives and livelihoods posed by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP is a mega FTA that 16 countries from the Asia-Pacific region are aiming to finalise by 2017.
Another major concern raised by the EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign network against the proposed EU-Philippines free trade agreement is the impact of its strict intellectual property rights chapter (IPR) on public health and access to medicines. Health advocates and proponents of the Cheaper Medicines Law (RA 9502) together with trade advocates have come out strongly against provisions in the FTA that would extend patent terms, and effectively delay availability of more affordable generic medicines. Public health should not be subordinated to the agenda of big pharmaceutical companies.
Citra Mina workers have been on strike since 2013 over the arbitrary termination of 238 for organising a union. The striking workers and union supporters have been facing various threats including purported "disappearances" onboard fishing vessels of workers who complain company abuses.
A number of issues have been raised against the company including unsafe and slave-like working conditions, blacklisting to keep workers in line, forced labour, rampant use of labour and fishing subcontracting called "cabo" system, alleged human trafficking and illegal fishing.