On the eve of the second round of negotiations of the Indonesia-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), civil society organizations from Indonesia, the ASEAN region and Europe called for a moratorium of the trade negotiations until a broad consultation to map potential impacts of the agreement, including on human rights, is undertaken with civil society.
In a joint letter presented to the Government of Indonesia and the European Commission, civil society organisations voice their concern over the deregulation in the public services sector and far-reaching liberalisation foreseen in the agreement, and the negative impact this will have on peoples’ right to universal and affordable access to basic public services. An additional point of concern is the broad investment chapter pushed for by the EU Commission. This provides extensive protection to foreign investors, enforceable through investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, while not entailing any corresponding obligations of investors. ISDS has been widely criticized by civil society, human rights experts and some governments for interfering with States’ ability to regulate in the public interest and placing investors’ interests before human rights.
UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and Human Rights Council Special Procedures have on several occasions highlighted the human rights obligations States have – both within and beyond their national borders – in the context of trade and investment agreements. In November 2016, for example, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recommended Canada to “ensure that trade and investment agreements negotiated by the State party recognize the primacy of its international human rights obligations over investors’ interests, so that the introduction of investor-State dispute settlement procedures shall not create obstacles to full compliance with the Convention” (1). While the CEPA negotiations are conducted by the European Commission, this does not relieve individual EU member States from their human rights obligations.
Civil society organisations call for talks on CEPA to continue only once a comprehensive human rights impact assessment and sustainability impact assessment of the proposed agreement is undertaken by Indonesia and the European Union to ensure compliance of the agreement with human rights. This exercise should not only involve the Indonesian government and the European Commission, but also parliaments, academia, the affected communities and civil society. Moreover, there must be safeguards against privileged access and undue influence from the business sector.
The recommendations put forward also emphasise the importance of ex post monitoring of human rights and environmental impacts and review of the agreement in case any adverse impacts are identified.
The civil society call extends to parallel negotiations of the EU with other ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.
You can read the civil society statement here