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 experts voice concern over adverse impact of free trade and investment agreements on human rights

Source: OHCHR

GENEVA 2 June 2015 – A number of free trade and investment agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are currently being negotiated. A group of UN experts* have issued the following statement to express concern about the secret nature of drawing up and negotiating many of these agreements and the potential adverse impact of these agreements on human rights:

“While trade and investment agreements can create new economic opportunities, we draw attention to the potential detrimental impact these treaties and agreements may have on the enjoyment of human rights as enshrined in legally binding instruments, whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social. Our concerns relate to the rights to life, food, water and sanitation, health, housing, education, science and culture, improved labour standards, an independent judiciary, a clean environment and the right not to be subjected to forced resettlement.

As also underlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, States must ensure that trade and investment agreements do not constrain their ability to meet their human rights obligations (Guiding Principle 9). Read more