Civil society groups say No to investors suing States in RCEP

Civil society organisations strongly urge countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to reject the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause in the agreement.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is being negotiated in secret by 16 countries and a leaked copy of its investment chapter includes proposals to allow foreign investors to sue governments at an international tribunal.

These investor suits can be for unlimited cash damages and compound interest. If the proposals are accepted, this investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) would allow foreign investors to sue RCEP governments if they regulate in ways that disadvantages the foreign investor, eg by reducing its profits, including by introducing new laws/policies or changing their laws/policies, even if it is for public interest reasons.

Past ISDS cases have successfully challenged health, environmental, tax, financial regulation and many other laws and a losing government in one case had to pay an investor as much as US$40billion. This is difficult enough for any government to afford, but RCEP includes three least developed countries: Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar who would find it particularly burdensome to pay foreign investors this much.

There are 696 known ISDS cases against 107 countries and the number filed each year has been rapidly increasing (the most ever were filed in 2015). These cases which broadly interpret investors’ rights and restrict governments’ ability to regulate have caused many developed and developing country governments to rethink their support for these investment protection provisions (including ISDS) in bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and free trade agreement (FTA) investment chapters. For example in RCEP countries alone:


  •  India and Indonesia are withdrawing from their BITs,
  •  Singapore’s Attorney General and the Chief Justice of Australia’s highest court have expressed concerns about ISDS and
  •  The New Zealand Chief Justice noted that human rights based determinations of domestic courts may give rise to ISDS claims.
  • In countries outside RCEP there is also opposition to ISDS including:
  •  Other countries such as South Africa and Ecuador are withdrawing from their BITs,
  •  Germany’s Economic Minister opposes ISDS in Europe’s FTA negotiations with the USA,
  •  the Dutch, French and Austrian Parliaments oppose ISDS in their FTA negotiations with Canada and the USA and
  •  All US state-level parliaments oppose ISDS in any treaty.


Various United Nations (UN) human rights bodies have also stated their serious concerns about ISDS including 10 UN Special Rapporteurs/Independent Experts on human rights who said that the ISDS cases demonstrate ‘that the regulatory function of many States and their ability to legislate in the public interest have been put at risk’ and governments have been chilled from regulating. They recommended that in negotiations of FTAs like RCEP, the negotiating texts are published and the negotiations are conducted transparently with the participation of stakeholders including civil society.

RCEP Trade Ministers will meet in Laos on 5 August 2016 to try and resolve some of the issues that are stuck in the negotiations.

Given this, the 95 RCEP civil society organisations listed below strongly urge RCEP countries to reject ISDS in the agreement.

Note: The RCEP countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand


Organization, Coverage
1. GRAIN, Global
2. Third World Network, Global
3. Transnational Institute (TNI), Global
4. World Federation of Public Health Associations. Global
5. LDC Watch, Global
6. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law & Development (APWLD), Asia & Pacific
7. Public Services International Asia & Pacific, Asia & Pacific
8. Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Asia & Pacific
9. The Building and Wood Workers’ International Asia-Pacific, Asia & Pacific
10. Focus on the Global South, Philippines, Thailand, India, Cambodia, Laos
11. Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Australia
12. Australian Services Union, Australia
13. The Grail Global Justice Network, Australia
14. People’s Health Movement, Australia
15. Public Health Association of Australia
16. New South Wales Nurses & Midwives’ Association, Australia
17. Cambodian Grassroots Cross-sector Network, Cambodia
18. SILAKA, Cambodia
19. Social Action for Change, Cambodia
20. The Messenger Band, Cambodia
21. Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodia
22. Worker’s Information Center, Cambodia
23. All India Drug Action Network, India
24. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), India
25. Delhi Network of Positive People, India
26. Food Sovereignty Alliance, India
27. Forum Against FTAs, India
28. India FDI Watch, India
29. Indian Social Action Forum - INSAF, India
30. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, India
31. International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) -South Asia, India
32. Sunray Harvesters, India
33. Thanal, India
34. The Centre for Internet and Society, India
35. Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA), India
36. Ahimsa Society, Indonesia
37. Aliansi Masyarakat Sipil Untuk Perempuan Politik (ANSIPOL), Indonesia
38. Aliansi Nasional Bhineka Tunggal Ika (ANBTI), Indonesia
39. Aliansi Petani Indonesia, Indonesia
40. Bina Desa, Indonesia
41. Creata, Indonesia
42. Forhati Jatim, Indonesia
43. Himpunan Wanita Disabilitas Indonesia (HWDI), Indonesia
44. IHCS (Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice), Indonesia
45. Indonesia AIDS Coalition, Indonesia
46. Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia
47. Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (JATAM), Indonesia
48. Koalisi Rakyat Untuk Hak Atas Air (KRuHA), Indonesia
49. Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA), Indonesia
50. Maju Perempuan Indonesia (MPI), Indonesia
51. Pengembangan Inisiatif dan Advokasi Rakyat (PIAR) NTT, Indonesia
52. Pengurus Wilayah Lembaga Kajian dan Pengembangan Sumberdaya Manusia Nahdlatul Ulama (PW LAKPESDAM NU DKI), Indonesia
53. Sawit Watch, Indonesia
54. Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) (LVC Indonesia)
55. Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights), Indonesia
56. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, Indonesia
57. Yogya Interfaith Forum, Indonesia
58. Japan Family Farmers Movement, Japan
59. Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), Japan
60. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT), Malaysia
61. Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC), Malaysia
62. Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control & Health (MyWATCH), Malaysia
63. Penang Research Center in Socio Economy (PReCISE), Malaysia
64. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower Malaysia), Malaysia
65. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), Malaysia
66. Primary Care Doctors Organisation Malaysia (PCDOM), Malaysia
67. NGO Gender Group, Myanmar
68. Glocal Solutions Ltd, New Zealand
69. Doctors for Healthy Trade, New Zealand
70. It’s Our Future Aotearoa New Zealand
71. MANA Movement of the People, New Zealand
72. New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, New Zealand
73. New Zealand Public Service Association, New Zealand
74. New Zealand Tertiary Education Union, New Zealand
75. Ngai Tai Iwi Authority, New Zealand
76. Public Health Association
77. New Zealand Public Service Association, New Zealand
78. Alyansa Tigil MIna (Alliance Against Mining), Philippines
79. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, Philippines
80. IBON Foundation, Philippines
81. Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), Philippines
82. Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), Inc., Philippines
83. Association of Physicians for Humanism, Republic of Korea
84. IPLeft, Republic of Korea
85. Knowledge Commune, Republic of Korea
86. Korean Federation of Medical Groups for Health Rights, KFHR, Republic of Korea
87. Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society, KPDS, Republic of Korea
88. Trade & Democracy Institute, Republic of Korea
89. Trade Commission of MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Republic of Korea
90. Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
91. Foundation for Women, Thailand
92. FTA Watch, Thailand
93. Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand, Thailand
94. Thai Poor Act, Thailand
95. Vietnam Network of People living with HIV, Vietnam

Individual Signatories, Country
1. Andi Yuliani Paris, Indonesia 
2. Athea Sarastiani, Indonesia
3. Chairunnisa Yusuf, Indonesia
4. Hendrik Siregar, Indonesia
5. Ida Fauziyah, Indonesia
6. Indah Suksmaningsih, Indonesia
7. Irma Suryani Chaniago, Indonesia
8. Irmawaty Habie, Indonesia
9. Lena Maryana Mukti, Indonesia
10. Luluk Hamidah, Indonesia
11. Maeda Yoppy, Indonesia
12. Maria Goreti, Indonesia
13. Maulani A Rotinsulu, Indonesia
14. Melani Leimena Suharli, Indonesia
15. Nia Sjarifudin Nidalia Djohansyah, Indonesia
16. Nihayatul Wafiroh, Indonesia
17. Ratu Dian Hatifah, Indonesia
18. Sarah Lery Mboeik, Indonesia
19. Sulistyowati Irianto, Indonesia
20. Sumarjati Arjoso, Indonesia
21. Tumbu Saraswati, Indonesia
22. Biswajit Dhar, India
23. Gajanan Wakankar, India
24. Vu Ngoc Binh, Vietnam

TNI helped organise the event that led to this statement.


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