PRESS RELEASE: PEOPLE’S GROUPS REJECT RCEP
4 April, 2017
At a meeting organized by KRRS, La via Campesina, IT for Change, Forum Against FTAs, and other groups, around 100 representatives of people’s movements from southern Indian states gathered at the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore from 2-3 April to discuss the implications of the proposed mega free trade agreement – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). They represented a wide group working on health, agriculture, labour rights, financial and public services. The groups raised questions about the reasons why the Indian government is agreeing to be part of the RCEP, which allows foreign investors to sue governments, restrict policy space for governments, threatens access to life-saving medicines and puts seed sovereignty at risk.
“Farmers in India have already borne the brunt of existing FTAs such as the ASEAN-India FTA and India Sri-Lanka FTA. Cheap imports of palm oil, pepper and tea have devastated lives of peasants across South India. The RCEP will further aggravate this crisis. We reject the RCEP outright,” said KT Gangadhar, President KRRS (Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha).
“Intellectual property right provisions in RCEP will prohibit peasant rights of saving seeds and force them to buy expensive corporate seeds hence compromising seed sovereignty.” Kiran Vissa, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, Hyderabad).
Burnad Fatima, a member of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) added, “Women lead subsistence based agriculture which guarantees food security and nutrition of their communities but RCEP negates this and invites foreign trade to adversely alter the status of women farmers, stopping them from sharing any traditional and indigenous knowledge, and allowing corporation to take over common resources like water, land and forest. Women from the margins – rural poor, Indigenous and Dalit women are the worst impacted. We resist and say ‘No RCEP’.”
As the Indian Government prepares to host the 19th round of of RCEP negotiations in Hyderabad in July, civil society are concerned that India’s federal decision-making process – whereby state governments’ considerable autonomy over policies in agriculture, health, education and labour – will be compromised by India’s commitments in the RCEP. Participants expressed concern that the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause in the proposed agreement will undermine the Indian government’s ability to protect citizens human rights over corporate profits. The agriculture minister of Kerala, Sunil Kumar has already written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.
“The presence of international healthcare companies is increasing in India, evident in the presence of companies like Malaysia’s Columbia-Asia and the Singaporean IHH Health Berhard. Foreign investment in the sector is also increasing and grew at 27 per annually in the period between 2010 and 2014. Close to 80 per cent of this was equity investment. Entering into an agreement that will curtail the government’s ability to regulate the private healthcare sector and strengthen the so-called rights of investors will impact both workers and patients.” V. Narasimhan, India country representative, Public Services International.
Anand Grover, senior lawyer and former UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health pointed out, “India supplies cheap generic medicines across the developing world. Japan and South Korea are demanding strict patent laws that will raise the cost of affordable medicines which will impact patients in India and developing world.”
“Affordable medicines from Indian generics helped in making HIV treatment available to nearly 17 million patients worldwide. Today, people living with HIV are facing increased mortality rates because of co-infection with Tuberculosis or Hepatitis-C. There is a lack of access to new medicines to treat these diseases because of patent monopolies resulting in high prices or regulatory barriers. We are worried that the heightened Intellectual Property provisions being negotiated in RCEP, if accepted would further extend monopoly protection beyond what is required and keep medicines out of reach for us for a longer period of time,” added Firoz Khan, National Coalition of Positive People on India (NCPI+).
The two day meeting discussed the the impact of RCEP and free trade agreements on agriculture, manufacturing, essential services including access to medicines, banking and insurance and digital economy. The rights of people versus investor protections were discussed as were strategies to mobilise against RCEP. The groups called for an unequivocal rejection of RCEP.
For details Please Contact
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
+91-9810 078 055/+66-955 282 396
Janandolangala Mahamaithri and La Via Campesina
Forum Against FTAs