The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (or “RCEP”) is an agreement currently being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The RCEP countries account for almost a third of world GDP. The agreement covers goods, services, investment, competition, intellectual property, economic and technical cooperation, e-commerce and law.
As with the TPPA, the RCEP negotiations are taking place in top secret and without from the public. Everything we know about the agreement so far has come from leaked negotiating texts. These texts are available between KEI Online (the website of Knowledge Ecology International) and bilaterals.org. Analysis of the negotiations to date are available on both sites, as well as at the dedicated website, https://rceplegal.wordpress.com/.
While the RCEP negotiations to date do not appear to go as far as the TPPA, risks that have been identified so far are inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions and a likely impact on the availability of medicines.
The RCEP negotiations are officially due to be finished by the end of the year. In reality, however, commentators predict that the agreement will take much longer to conclude, if at all, due to competing visions for the agreement and the very different strategic interests of the parties.
At one end, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are pushing for an agreement with tough rules similar to the TPPA, including for investment and trade in services. At the other end, China is reportedly pushing for a more traditional free trade agreement focusing on reductions in tariffs on goods. At this stage, there does not appear to be any serious chance of RCEP being concluded in the immediate future.
The thirteenth round of consultations were held in Auckland from the 12-18 June.
Parallel meetings were held by the Working Groups on Trade in Goods and Trade in Services including their respective Sub-Working Groups, as well as the Working Groups on Investment, Economic and Technical Cooperation, Intellectual Property, Competition, e-Commerce, and Legal and Institutional Issues.
Its Our Future attended the stakeholder event. Our detailed report is here.
On June 10 2016, Jane Kelsey and Barry Coates w joined by former UN official Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram to talk about the next steps in the TPPA process and the new, rather ominous sounding, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.