Civil society groups seek details of Indo-Pacific supply chain agreement

Jul 23, 2023 | Blog, News, Pacific

Civil society groups from across the Pacific, including Fiji, have sent a letter to Trade Ministers calling for the release of agreements and key documents from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

The letter comes after the May meeting of Trade Ministers had “substantially concluded” the Supply Chain Agreement, one of the four pillars of the IPEF agreement.

“We are calling on the governments involved in IPEF to release the outcome from the Ministerial so that we can all see what has been agreed too and assess whether or not it is in the interests of communities,” commented Adam Wolfenden, Campaigner with the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).

“The recent release of the US-Taiwan trade deal before it was examined for legal coherence shows that there is no argument why the same can’t happen with the Detroit IPEF outcome. There is a real need for people in IPEF member countries to be able to see what has been agreed especially as they are wanting to operationalise it as soon as practicable,” continued Wolfenden.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) is a U.S. led initiative that aims to link major and emerging economies in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical area to the US economy in an attempt to undermine China’s economic influence.

The IPEF currently involves 14 Parties: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. Negotiations are structured around 4 pillars: Trade; Supply Chains; Clean Economy; and Fair Economy, however, countries may opt out of any of them as India has done on the Trade pillar.

“The IPEF is promoted as being as a new approach to trade, one that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of previous free trade agreements but we’re not seeing any proof of that. In fact, IPEF is being negotiated under even greater secrecy that other controversial agreements that the US and others have negotiated,” added Wolfenden.

Prior to undertaking negotiations, IPEF members had to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that they would not release any documents associated with the negotiations until five years after the agreement has come into force.

The letter calls for civil society organisations, legislative bodies, particularly parliamentary oversight, and the people of potential IPEF countries to immediately be given ongoing access to the negotiating texts to enable them to help formulate positions and comment on draft proposals throughout the course of the remaining negotiations.

“For a Pacific Island Country like Fiji it is important that any such agreement is open to the utmost scrutiny before an outcome is finalised. This involves not only public consultation processes but the release of the texts, both agreed and proposed, so that informed discussion and input can be achieved,” concluded Wolfenden.