RCEP Legitimises Dictatorship & Fails Oz Workers

  • 27 July 2021

The ACTU has called on the Morrison Government not to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which includes Myanmar’s military junta, at the JSCOT inquiry.  RCEP has been negotiated behind closed doors between Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Despite its size, there is no evidence that the RCEP agreement will benefit Australian workers.

The ACTU argues that ratifying RCEP will:

  • Legitimise the Tatmadaw military junta dictatorship in Myanmar which has already killed over 900 innocent civilians.
  • Fail to protect the rights of workers by having no reference to international labour standards or human rights standards. Many of the RCEP signatories, including China and Indonesia have poor human and workers’ rights records; the Australian Government should instead be using trade agreements to improve working conditions and address issues of labour exploitation, including slavery and child labour.

Moreover, RCEP does not provide benefits for Australian workers. Ratifying RCEP will:

  • Not protect the right of the Australian Government to regulate our aged care sector. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has exposed a system in crisis and made many recommendations regarding regulation. RCEP rules could prevent new regulation in these areas, including ensuring adequate staffing levels and qualification requirements.
  • Fail to ensure labour market testing for all RCEP countries which will allow exploitation of temporary migrants.
  • Not provide economic benefits to Australia as there has been no independent economic and social assessment, and there will be no increase in market access. RCEP would put Australia in a worse position. There are empirical economic studies from the Asian Development Bank that suggest the incremental change to Australia’s GDP will be 0.0 per cent to 2030.

The ACTU calls on the Morrison Government to urgently commission an independent social, economic and health assessment of the RCEP, and to renegotiate the agreement to ensure protection for workers’ rights, human rights, and the ability of the Australian Government to regulate essential services such as aged care.

RCEP agreement will legitimise the military dictatorship in Myanmar and fails to provide benefit to Australian workers.