The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matt Groch,

International Civil Society Reactions to Announcement of IPEF Member Countries

During President Biden's trip to Japan today, the White House announced the launch of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) talks with the United States, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Others may join later.


During President Biden's trip to Japan today, the White House announced the launch of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) talks with the United States, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Others may join later.

Academics and representatives of civil society organizations in those countries, many of whom are veterans of the international movement that derailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), reacted to this announcement. These reactions reflect a shared demand for any Indo-Pacific discussions to advance a genuine alternative to the failed 20th century free trade model, which has undermined governments' ability to regulate Big Tech and other large corporations, and must be conducted in a transparent and participatory manner.

Kate Lappin, Asia Pacific Regional Secretary, Public Services International (PSI)

[PSI's Asia and Pacific region covers 122 unions in 22 countries, (including IPEF countries announced today) and related territories with a membership of two million workers. The regional office is based in Singapore.]

"The proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework threatens to provide another space for multinational corporations to undermine democracy and establish global rules that put profits before people. Instead of creating new trade rules, countries should be focusing on removing trade rules that have proven to be barriers to global public health, access to vaccines, medicines and treatment and blocking fair and equitable recovery."

Dr. Patricia Ranald, Convener, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

"IPEF cannot meet its claimed goals of improving workers' rights and environmental standards without a far more transparent process with genuine involvement of unions, environment groups and other civil society groups. It will certainly not meet such goals if it is modeled on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which entrenched medicine monopolies, gave special rights to corporations to sue governments through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and deregulated digital trade in ways which make it harder to tackle the market dominance of Big Tech companies."

Sun Kim, M.S., Ph.D., Director, Research Center on Health Policy, Research Center on Global Solidarity, People's Health Institute (PHI), South Korea

"With the lowest margin ever, the newly elected South Korean president is hastily pushing to join this unprecedented negotiation platform. Nobody knows the content of it nor the intention of the new government. A South Korean farmers' group has already expressed their concerns in the government's process of joining the CPTPP agreement, but they again face this situation. Any international negotiation, especially the ones that would heavily impact the people's health and living, should engage the people that will be affected, and their voices must be heard and included. The concern of South Korean civil society is not the functionality of the Samsung semiconductor plant, but the North Korean people's lives under the current Covid outbreak, with a severe lack of resources due to the embargo driven by the U.S. government."

Shoko Uchida, Co-director of Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), Japan

"We, the civil society of Japan, express great concern about the IPEF as a new economic framework. While tariff reductions are apparently not included, the digital economy and strengthening supply chains are said to be among the issues to be discussed. In the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic and as the food and energy crisis is about to become a reality, we are reminded of the problems with existing "free trade" rules, like those included in the TPP. To achieve a world where "no one is left behind," we need different model for trade that contributes to workers' rights, farmers' sovereignty, the environment, human rights, and local economies."

Dr. Jane Kelsey, retired law professor, trade justice campaigner, Aotearoa, New Zealand

"Given the US's long history of writing global trade rules on behalf of its mega-corporations, we view the IPEF with deep skepticism. If President Biden, USTR Tai and Commerce Secretary Raimondo can produce a real alternative that puts people and the planet front and centre, and can convince our governments to genuinely support that new paradigm, we will work to make it succeed. But if IPEF is just another way to promote the old corporate agenda, and a proxy for the US's geopolitical goals, we will campaign against it like we did with the TPPA."

Annie Enriquez Geron, General Secretary of Public Services Labour Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippines

"Workers in ASEAN know that trade rules, written by corporations and wealthy countries, are a way to drive down wages and enable privatization of our public services, resources and now even of our data."

Joseph Purugganan - Coordinator, Trade Justice Pilipinas
Dr. Rene Ofreneo - President, Freedom from Debt Coalition

"As if the high prices of medicines, vaccine apartheid, and the blocking of the COVID TRIPS waiver at the WTO were not enough, corporations, working through the governments of rich countries, want us in the developing world to now agree to the IPEF, where they are trying to strengthen the monopoly of big pharma over medicines through even longer and stronger intellectual property protection, while at the same time exposing our beleaguered and debt-strapped nations to investor-to-state dispute settlement and demanding digital economy provisions that would undermine our digital sovereignty. IPEF's digital economy provisions are likely to lock in the de facto tax-exempt status of big platforms, which at the global level already benefit from tax planning. This means more foregone revenues for the government and competitive disadvantage for local firms who pay all sorts of national and local taxes."

Mohideen Abdul Kader, President of Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia

"The IPEF would be detrimental for Malaysia. US multinational companies are openly pushing for provisions that would prevent the Malaysian government from preferentially purchasing from local companies, and for stronger intellectual property protection that would make medicines more expensive. The digital economy provisions would undermine Malaysia's privacy, consumer protection, health, environmental, financial, tax and other crucial regulations, while investor-to-state dispute settlement provisions would restrict Malaysia's ability to regulate and expose it to paying billions of dollars in penalties to foreign investors. These are among the problematic provisions that are unacceptable for Malaysia."

Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director, Citizens Trade Campaign, United States

"The first step in developing a new, 'worker-centered' trade model is partnering with nations committed to upholding core labor and human rights standards. The ongoing rights abuses in the Philippines and some other IPEF members would undermine Biden administration's goal of establishing a new model for international trade that prioritizes working people over corporate interests."

Melinda St. Louis, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, United States

"Now that IPEF has officially launched, it's time to learn the details. How will President Biden guarantee a transparent and participatory process? Will strong labor and environmental standards be at IPEF's core? Or will countries commit to extreme Big Tech-friendly digital trade terms at the expense of workers' rights and consumer privacy? Public Citizen is eager to see and help design the "worker-centric" trade policy needed to promote equality, sustainability, and prosperity in the global economy."

V.Narasimhan, General Secretary, All India National Life Insurance Employees Federation

"Indian workers and farmers have successfully fought against trade agreements that threaten our jobs, livelihoods and public services. We stopped India from joining the RCEP and we will do the same if the IPEF or any other trade agreement includes rules that benefit foreign investors and not the people of India."

Parminder Jeet Singh Forum on Trade and Development, India

"Indian civil society organisations (CSOs) are very concerned about the potential implications of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Regional and global economic partnership projects should aim at assisting national economies develop national autonomy and resilience, and develop international trade on their own terms, rather than become means to coerce less powerful countries to mortgage their economic independence to global economic powers and multinational companies. This is also a key lesson from the COVID-19 epidemic.

We are especially concerned that IPEF will also be employed to curtail much needed efforts for digital industrialisation and sovereignty of countries, and herald a new era of digital colonialism.

Indian CSOs are also extremely worried that companies are demanding stronger intellectual property protection on medicines, investor-to-state dispute settlement and other provisions from the very problematic Trans-Pacific Partnership and any IPEF should not contain any of these provisions."

Evi Krisnawati, President of FSP FARKES R
(Pharmaceutical and Health Workers Union - Indonesia)

"The pandemic has allowed multinational corporations to gain obscene profits, protected by trade rules they designed. The last thing our government should be doing is negotiating new trade rules that could give even more power to Big Tech and others to profit and to control data that might be needed for public health and public good."

Rachmi Hertanti, Trade Campaign Activist, Indonesia

"The IPEF is once again a treaty model that will only serve the corporate interests rather than the people itself. The high standard provisions regulated under IPEF does not serve for the protection of the people's rights, but as a competition model to impede the competitiveness of developing countries in ASEAN. And it will facilitate the high protection of the US corporate rights from the unfair trade practices from other competing countries, like China for instance. It's still unclear how the US will set up a clear standard for the real human rights and environmental protection."

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