The hidden costs of RCEP and corporate trade deals in Asia

If signed, RCEP would grant corporations the exclusive right to bypass domestic legal systems and sue governments at international tribunals whenever they feel government regulation can limit their profits. New research reveals that investors have launched 50 lawsuits at secret international arbitration tribunals against governments negotiating the RCEP agreement for at least $31 billion US dollars.

The report by The Transnational Institute (TNI), Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Focus on the Global South and Paung Ku exposes a growing wave of corporate lawsuits against Asian countries, which could lead to a drain in public budgets of millions of US dollars and undermine governments’ rights to regulate in the public interest.

The report argues that these lawsuits provide a warning of the potential high costs of the proposed RCEP trade deal. RCEP will deepen the rights of investors and lock in place this system of privatized justice. Governments will find it much more difficult to withdraw their commitments to the rights accorded to foreign investors in RCEP than in Bilateral Investment Treaties, because they would need to put an end to the whole agreement and not just the sections on investors’ rights.

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