Ph negotiators told to review position on China-led RCEP

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Ph negotiators told to review position on China-led RCEP

File photo of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shown the way by Chinese President Xi Jinping before a signing ceremony held in Beijing
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) is shown the way by Chinese President Xi Jinping before a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. | Photo by Reuters.com

Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Monday urged the Filipino negotiators in the 18th meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to review the guidelines and context of the inter-regional free trade and economic pact before ratifying into agreements.

The 18th RCEP meeting, which is being hosted by the Philippines started on May 2 and will end on May 12. The country’s main negotiator on the meeting is the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

RCEP is China-led mega-regional free trade agreement that covers half of the world’s population, 38% of the world economy and nearly 30% of the world’s trade volume. China aims to reach the agreement by the end of 2017 or early 2018. It is Beijing’s counter free trade agreement to U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement which U.S. President Donald Trump has recently pulled out.

For its part, the fisherfolk group expresses doubt on why the RCEP is being negotiated in secret like the TPP and other past free trade agreements. The group said it is the prerogative of the public to be involved in a pre-consultation before entering into any agreement especially if it involves the country’s economic affairs. Past free trade agreements that were also secretly negotiated surprised the people that their sovereign and economic rights were already compromised and sold to powerful nations that lead the trade pact.

We wonder why the RCEP negotiators keep the public in the dark. Will they just disseminate the settled agreements on the ground after the negotiations without holding any democratic consultation? We demand that we first know and study the content of the RCEP before entering into this new face of free trade pact,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.

PAMALAKAYA said failure of world trade deals like the World Trade Organization (WTO) to make all countries ratify make the powerful nations resort to bilateral and inter-regional deals like RCEP and TPP to consolidate their trading colonies and markets.

The group also fears that RCEP might be used by China as a precondition to allow Filipino fishers to have access on our own territory in the disputed South China Sea. China has yet to give up its claim over the 90% of the South China Sea which the Philippines has its claim. China after years of being antagonistic has recently allows Filipino fishers to sail in the Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground located 124 nautical miles away from the province of Zambales and is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Scarborough Shoal and other fishing grounds being claimed by China in the first place are legally and historically belong to Philippines. China must not pressure the country to sign into the agreements under the RCEP in exchange for the access of Filipino fishers to West Philippine Sea,”

“As proven by the previous foreign trade deals like the WTO, the trademark of free trade agreements on economic policies is import-dependent and export-oriented production that furthers the loss of the country’s resources and will stunt the economic growth. We urge President Rodrigo Duterte and the DTI not to compromise our sovereign and economic rights over the new face of foreign plunder to our resources,” ended Hicap. ###

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