From TPP to RCEP: People always at the losing end

December 13, 2016

Groups warn intensified landgrabs, unemployment as China fastracks RCEP talks

JAKARTA—Civil society groups and social movements from Indonesia and across Asia Pacific warned of intensified land grabs and unemployment as the 16th round of negotiations for the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) begins in Indonesia from Dec 7-9, 2016.

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Protesters from AGRA (Aliansi Geraka Reforma Agraria) marched towards Indonesia Covention Exhibit (ICE) in Tangerang – the venue of the RCEP round of negotiations in Indonesia.

“We expect no less than escalating cases of land grabbing and militarization of our communities, a sharp increase in unemployment, and the continued worsening of poverty in Indonesia once RCEP becomes enforced,” said Rahmat Ajiguna from Aliansi Geraka Reforma Agraria (AGRA).

‘People at the losing end’

The 16-member RCEP trade negotiations officially began in 2011 and recently gained steam after the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) met its untimely demise following Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections.

“Much like the TPP, the RCEP contains provisions that go beyond traditional trade concerns bringing to fore a torrent of devastating impacts on people’s rights while further empowering corporations,” said Lei Covero of IBON International.

“Despite their differences however, it must be made clear that both agreements pose major threats and equally devastating impacts on people’s rights and sovereignty across the region. Despite the seemingly competing interests between two trade pacts – must be made clear that both RCEP and TPP serve as extensions of the WTO,” said People Over Profit Network coordinator and APRN Program Officer, Mark Pascual.

“Whether it’s TPP or RCEP, the people will find no refuge in these FTAs because as long as they are designed to concentrate wealth at the hands of powerful countries, people will always be at the losing end,” said Joan Salvador of GABRIELA – Filipino Women’s Alliance.

‘We shall not let RCEP pass’

“We shall not let RCEP pass. As attacks against our rights become ever more acute, so shall our collective resistance,” said Asian Peasant Coalition Chairperson Chennaiah Poguri.

FPR together with POP and APC staged a protest rally in front of the Indonesia Convention Exhibition (ICE) – the venue of the 16th round of RCEP negotiations to highlight the people’s rejection of RCEP and other FTAs.

“We shall fight RCEP the same way we fought and brought down other Free Trade and Investment Agreements (FTAs) – through the power of mass actions that proved decisive in the fallout of TTIP, TPPA and other FTAs,” added Rudi HB Daman of Front Perjuangan Rakyat (FPR). ###