Civil society groups have urged India to halt negotiations with the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and its five trading partners over a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, terming the ongoing talks secretive.
The appeal comes at a time when the eighth round of negotiations on the RCEP trade agreement is all set to begin in Kyoto, Japan this week.
Farmers groups, trade unions, civil society and patient groups want India to halt the negotiations, make the negotiating texts public and hold consultations with all the relevant stakeholders. They say the agreement will have a negative impact on the access to medicines, livelihood of farmers, quality of public services and overall social and economic development of the country.
Patient groups including Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) along with International Treatment Preparedness Coalition- South Asia rallied outside the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi today to send a signal about the dangers the trade deal poses to access to medicines.
“Several countries involved in negotiations on RCEP, including Japan, are also participating in another potentially harmful trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement being led by the USA, and will push for harmonization of RCEP with TPP. There are already widespread concerns about the implications of the TPP on future policy space for industrialization, access to medicines, internet freedom, environment, and the right of the government’s to regulate in public interest. The TPP is being severely opposed by civil society groups, trade unions and people’s movements worldwide”. Loon Gangte, DNP+ and International Treatment Preparedness Coalition- South Asia says.
Started in May 2013, the RCEP is being negotiated between the ASEAN block and six trading partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
For long, Indian civil society has been demanding the socio-economic impact assessment of free trade agreements including the RCEP, against their contribution to inclusive and just development.