6 November 2019: Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australia will sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in early 2020 was met with disappointment by ActionAid Australia and its 18,000 activists who have campaigned strongly against the unjust trade deal.
ActionAid Australia condemned the lack of transparency around the negotiations and called for the immediate release of the full text and an independent analysis of the deal’s impacts on women before the deal is signed.
“There has been inadequate consultation with civil society and no independent analysis of the gender impacts of the deal, which threatens to drive poor working conditions for women and limit access to life saving medicines,” said Executive Director, Michelle Higelin. “This deal prioritises corporate rights over women’s rights and more than 1.1 billion women and girls in the 15 signatory countries stand to be affected.”
“The Government must release of the final text to allow time for a comprehensive independent analysis of the gender impacts of the deal in Australia and partner countries before RCEP is signed and it’s too late.”
ActionAid has warned that parts of the deal – including those which strengthen intellectual property regulations, encourage increased cross-border trade in services and give foreign investors the same rights as local companies – may negatively impact women’s rights.
“ActionAid Australia is concerned that this deal will fundamentally shift power to corporations at the expense of women’s rights, and these impacts will be hardest felt in low income countries,” Ms Higelin said.
“Trade deals like RCEP that are negotiated in secret and without a critical mass of women at the table have the potential to undermine efforts to alleviate poverty and address gender equality in our region. With the Australian Government having repeatedly cut the foreign aid budget, we have serious concerns about the potential compounding impacts on women and girls living in poverty who are vulnerable to exploitation at work.”
The exact contents of the deal will not be released until after RCEP is officially signed which means it could include the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause which has been widely criticised for giving special rights to corporations to sue governments for regulating in the public interest such as the high profile Philip Morris case against Australia in 2015.
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Notes to editors:
*World Bank 2018 female population data for the 15 confirmed partner countries – Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, China and the 10 ASEAN nations. (India has refused to sign the deal.)
ActionAid Australia is a women’s rights organisation, part of a global Federation working in 45 countries to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication. ActionAid Australia supports women around the world affected by disasters, conflicts and unjust economic policies and laws to claim their rights, while campaigning against government policy and corporate practice that undermines them. www.actionaid.org.au