A New Generation of Free Trade Agreements That Privilege Business Interests Over Human Rights — Shalini Bhutani

Source: The Wire

BY SHALINI BHUTANI

There must be ex ante human rights impact assessment of the trade agreements and investment treaties that are being negotiated by the ASEAN community, including with and in India.

Will RCEP trade negotiations privilege businesses over human rights? Credit: Reuters

Aug 30, 2016. The founders of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) – foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, had in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand created an organisation meant for peace, freedom and prosperity of the region’s people.

Today, the ASEAN is a group of ten countries in the South East Asia (SEA) region. The group comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

ASEAN is also to expand to include more countries. Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste are seeking accession; while Fiji and Bangladesh are likely future members.  An ASEAN charter rendering the grouping a legal personality came into force as recently as December 2008. And ASEAN members formally declared the establishment of the ASEAN Community with effect from 31 December 2015. Read more

UN Report: Economic Gains From Migration Overlooked

Source: Voices of America

FILE – Laborers eat during a break from their work at the site of a commercial building under construction in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, Dec. 13, 2013.

A new U.N. report on labor and migration in Asia Pacific says economic gains from migration are often overlooked and is calling for policies promoting greater regional cooperation or risk heightening inequalities and human rights abuses.

Globally in 2013 there were more than 213 million migrants worldwide with over 59 million living in the Asia Pacific region, marking a growing trend since 1990. Read more

Repression and regime survival – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider

BY KHOO YING HOOI

In my November column, “Malaysia’s vote on protecting human rights defenders, diplomatic window dressing”, I raised the question of the commitments of the 117 countries which voted “yes” to the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including Malaysia.

The question was raised mainly due to the consistency of the authorities in cracking down on those who speak against government policy, which at this stage could suggest that such forms of intimidation are at the heart of the administration’s tactics.

There are various levels of repression. In Malaysia, repression has its own dimension. For the most part, it sets restrictions on individuals’ civil rights which anticipate the limiting of coordination and mobilisation capacity of groups and individuals, as we have witnessed in many recent cases on human rights activists.

Jakarta Globe reported last week’s deportation of an Indonesian rights activist, Mugiyanto Sipin, who was supposed to speak at a forum titled “People’s movement can bring change” held by the Bersih group in conjunction with its Yellow Mania event. Read more

Excited about the Asean Economic Community? – Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Source: The Star Online

BY WAN SAIFUL WAN JAN

Wan Saiful Wan Jan - The Star Online file pic

Wan Saiful Wan Jan – The Star Online file pic

ON Aug 8, 1967 the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand signed a document known as the Bangkok Declaration.

It marked the birth of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The original membership of five countries eventually grew to 10, when Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam joined in subsequent years.

Right from the start the founding fathers of Asean declared that one of the purposes of the association is “to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership”. Read more

Mampukah AEC bawa kemakmuran masyarakat serantau, atau berasaskan keuntungan?

Sumber: The Malaysian Insider

Komuniti Ekonomi Asean pada dasarnya mahu menjadikan rantau ini sebagai satu blok ekonomi tanpa sempadan sama seperti Kesatuan Eropah tetapi tanpa mata wang sendiri dengan frasa rasminya ialah "Satu Visi, Satu Identiti, Satu Komuniti".

Komuniti Ekonomi Asean pada dasarnya mahu menjadikan rantau ini sebagai satu blok ekonomi tanpa sempadan sama seperti Kesatuan Eropah tetapi tanpa mata wang sendiri dengan frasa rasminya ialah “Satu Visi, Satu Identiti, Satu Komuniti”.

Jerebu yang terus menerus melanda rantau Asean adalah simbol dan ujian sama ada Komuniti Ekonomi Asean (AEC) mampu melunaskan janji membawa kemakmuran kepada 625 juta rakyatnya.

Contoh jerebu digunakan Jerald Joseph, seorang pemimpin masyarakat sivil Malaysia, ketika bercakap tentang bagaimana perasaan Forum Rakyat Asean (APF) tentang AEC.

Joseph merupakan penganjur bersama sidang kemuncak APF 2015 di Malaysia April lalu, yang dihadiri pertubuhan masyarakat sivil terbesar Asean.

Ia merupakan simbol kerana jerebu adalah produk sampingan daripada apa AEC mahu lakukan tetapi pada skala lebih besar – untuk memberikan kebebasan perniagaan Asean dan kemudahan membuka kedai di mana-mana 10 negara anggota bagi mengambil kesempatan daripada buruh murah dan sumber yang belum diterokai. Read more

Asean Missing Social Agenda — Charles Santiago

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY CHARLES SANTIAGO

An opinion piece - file pic

An opinion piece – file pic

NOVEMBER 21 — It’s the 27th time that Asean heads of states and world leaders, such as yourselves, will be meeting to discuss the initiative for Asean integration, which deals with the gaps in economic development in the region, besides meetings with other dialogue partners such as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

The formation of the Asean Economic Community in the next six weeks, similar to that of the European Union, which is characterised by a single market and the free intra-regional flow of goods, services and investment will be the main focus of the meetings and has captured the imagination of global and regional economic observers.

Asean has been mouthing that it works in the interest of the people. But the economic integration, fashioned to look as if it prioritises the welfare of the people, only focuses on Business Asean and not Social Asean.

Business Asean, which includes the free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, European Union-Asean trade deal or the recently concluded Transpacific Partnership Agreement, promote multinationals, Asean big businesses and lobbyists.

The social dimension to the integration efforts by the ten member countries — Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines — is therefore sorely missing. Read more