Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar18/05)
12 March 2018
Third World Network
Feminist groups say "NO" to CPTPP signing on Women's
Published in SUNS #8638 dated 9 March 2018
Geneva, 8 Mar (Kanaga Raja) - Over 50 feminists groups and allies
from nine Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries have condemned
the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership
(CPTPP) in Santiago, Chile on 8 March, the same day that International
Women's Day is celebrated.
In a statement, the civil society groups expressed outrage that governments
are signing away women's rights on the same day that they celebrate
The statement noted that on 8 March every year, women across the world
remember and celebrate the struggles of women in the past and in the
present "against patriarchy, against authoritarian regimes, against
violence, against neo-liberal market fundamentalism that exploits
our labour, silences our voices, privatises our public services and
deregulates our market."
The International Women's Day celebrates the power of women's movements
in advancing progressive policy changes and the solidarity actions
that women have taken, from when women took to the streets for the
right to vote and hold public office, when women went on strike to
demand equal pay and to when women have celebrated other inspirational
women in their lives, it said.
The civil society statement noted that the governments of Australia,
Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand,
Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam will gather on the very day of 8 March
2018 in Santiago, Chile to ink the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive
Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) Agreement "that is neither
progressive nor feminist."
The statement was signed by amongst others ACCION, Asociacion Chilena
de ONG; ActionAid Australia; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law &
Development (APWLD); Asian Women for Equality (Canada); Association
of Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus (Japan); Center for Sustainable
Development in Mountainous Areas (Vietnam); DECA, Equipo Pueblo (Mexico);
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP);
Malaysian Trades Union Congress; People's Health Movement (Chile);
Think Centre (Singapore); and Peruvian Network for Globalization with
On this very day, "the TPP governments are determined to humiliate
women's struggles and movements by pursuing an economic agenda that
signs away the rights of women, creates conditions to exploit our
labour, privatise our public services, deregulates our market and
silence our voices," said Diyana Yahaya, Programme Officer, Asia
Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), in a press release
of 7 March.
According to the statement, the CPTPP, just like its predecessor the
TPP, will drive a race to the bottom, with women at the bottom. It
will promote labour competition and women's low wages as a source
of competitive advantage for corporations.
"It will threaten women's access to public services through the
reduction of tariffs that deprives governments of important revenue,
the requirement that foreign corporations should be able to compete
for public services, and the existence of investor protection mechanisms
that discourage governments from reversing failed privatisation to
introducing new regulations to increase public access or benefits
to essential, basic public services."
When governments cut public social services such as healthcare, women's
health is usually deemed expendable while they are expected to provide
the unpaid care work to make up for it.
Based on the "national treatment" principle, CPTPP also
require countries to treat foreign companies in the same way they
treat local ones, pushing women, who are the majority of small scale,
subsistence farmers, to compete against huge agro-businesses, said
With the tightened intellectual property rights, it will be a "big
win" only for the large seed companies with legal power to prohibit
seed sharing amongst farmers and require farmers to pay royalties
for seeds for up to 20 or 25 years.
"Women, the custodian of seed, food and traditional knowledge
who depend on the sharing of seed and other inputs from each other
will be greatly harmed by the CPTPP, forced out of their farms and
the local economy."
More outrageously, said the statement, the CPTPP maintains the Investor-State
Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a mechanism that allows for foreign corporations
to reach across borders and sue governments in unaccountable international
tribunals if governments pass any laws, policies and practices that
infringes on the corporations' rights to profit.
Corporations have used ISDS to avoid paying taxes, to undermine policies
made in public interests such as health policy, to reverse affirmative
action policies, to avoid obligations to protect the environment,
to punish governments that introduce clean energy or to reverse failed
"We, women's rights organisations and allies are outraged that
governments have decided to not only proceed with the CPTPP despite
all its criticism and fundamental lack of public, citizen's review,
but to sign away women's human rights on the same day that we celebrate
The very same hard-fought rights that women's organisations and activists
have fought for centuries, only to put powers and privilege in the
hands of large multinational corporations and the wealthiest few.
It is a breach of the very fundamental principle of social contract
that sovereignty comes from the people, the groups argued.
They noted that so many of the governments which are part of the CPTPP
have talked the rhetoric of women's human rights and gender equality,
and some of them still do.
If countries in the CPTPP are genuinely committed to women's human
rights and gender equality they must not proceed with the CPTPP, they
"We urge the governments of CPTPP to break the disguised assumption
that opposition to trade agreements equates to nationalism and a rejection
of accountable multilateralism," said the groups.
"Instead, our time requires the global community to urgently
envision and chart out a different trade model that is based on solidarity
economy and human rights, to protect the people and the planet, redistribute
power, resources and wealth between men and women, and between rich
and poor and between countries," the statement concluded.