Asia Europe People’s Forum Thematic Circle Civil Society Deeply Concerned Over Indonesia-EU Trade Agreement

Jakarta, 19 February 2018. Indonesian and European Civil Society Groups raised serious concerns  that the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Indonesia and the European Union could hinderequitable and sustainable development.

This views were presented at a press conference held shortly before the opening of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) event at University of Indonesia, Salemba, Central Jakarta (19/2). The AEPF event will be held in parallel to the 4th Indonesia-EU CEPA negotiations that will take place in Solo from 19-23 February 2018.

Rachmi Hertanti, Indonesia Executive Director for Global Justice (IGJ), Asia representative to the International Organizing Committee of the AEPF, stated that the current negotiations are not designed  to protect the basic rights of people. “The Indonesia EU trade agreement will push for unlimited market access and VIP rights for foreign investors and is likely to result in further concentration of markets and capital. This contributes to inequitable socioeconomic development in and between countries and is hence not a sustainable way forward”, she said.

Hertanti reiterated that in order to ensure the protection of the basic rights of the public in free trade agreements, full transparency and public involvement in the negotiation process should be mandatory. “The disclosure of information and public involvement must be a mandatory condition provided by the government, so that the public can monitor the negotiations and raise concerns over provisions that are contrary to the basic rights of the people”, demanded Hertanti.

There are several   -conditions that civil society urges to be implemented immediately,  prior to further advances in the negotiation process , namely: (1) full transparency; (2) ensuring balanced input from stakeholders; (3) ratifying and implementing the ILO core conventions; (4) undertaking an impact assessment on Human Rights and Sustainable Development: (5) and an end deforestation.

Joseph Purugganan, Head of the Philippine office of Focus on the Global South and co-coordinator of the EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network, echoed Hertami’s concerns over the democratic deficit hounding trade negotiations with the EU. “Like Indonesia, the Phippines is in the middle of negotiations with the EU for an ambitious new generation FTA and the public has generally been shut out of the formal process as well,” said Purugganan.  “Another concern we share with the Indonesian people is how the proposed FTA with the EU advances the corporate agenda over the national interest” added Purugganan

 The need for red lines in the CEPA

The civil society groups also urged the negotiating parties to do away with any provisions under CEPA that will limit the state’s capacity to regulate in the public interest. Marc Maes, trade policy coordinator at the Flemish North-South movement 11.11.11, emphasized the importance of ’red lines’ for civil society in the negotiations: “There are numbers of ‘red lines’ that cannot be crossed in order to ensure  that  CEPA does not conflict with public rights”, explained Maes.

Maes further highlighted some of the red lines in the CEPA negotiations like excluding vital public services; permitting performance and local content requirements; and preferential treatment for small domestic producers. Other non-negotiable issues include ensuring the access to generic drugs and seeds, no restrictions on the application of export tariffs for unprocessed raw materials, and concrete measures to promote workers’ rights.

Palm Oil Must Stays Out Of The Negotiations Arena

The groups also highlighted the issue of  palm oil in the CEPA negotiations,

Yuyun Harmono, Campaign Coordinator of WALHI, urged that palm oil issues should be excluded from the  negotiations. “Trade negotiations are not the right place to solve the problems of palm oil production in Indonesia. Moreover, the palm oil market access rules in CEPA will only increase the trade in palm oil products and may lead to social conflicts in plantations”, said Yuyun.

Civil society organisations called instead for an inclusive dialogue outside trade negotiations that involves all stakeholders, especially affected communities, to pursue an ambitious road map to tackle issues of palm oil in a democratic, transparent and holistic manner.

Investor lawsuits against states must not be eliminated

 The CEPA is expected to include a mechanism that enables foreign investor to sue states for unlimited amounts of compensation if laws or regulations harm their expected profits. Indonesia itself has experienced eight cases where the Indonesia government was sued by foreign investors in international arbitration tribunals. Claims by investors  can reach billions of dollars.

Roeline Knottnerus from the Transnational Institute, who just completed a study on the detrimental effects of special rights for foreign investors  stated that the CEPA must not include such VIP rights .

“Such outsized privileges for foreign investors cannot be justified and only harm the public interest and the sovereignty of the state. Therefore, a state-investor dispute resolution mechanisms regardless of whether it is the “classic ISDS”, or the EU’s attempt to introduce minor reforms and rebrand it as Investment Court System (ICS) must not be included in the agreement “, she stressed.

Sustainable development & access to remedy for affected communities

The EU proposal on a special chapter governing trade and sustainable development is one of the issues highlighted by civil society.

Sulistri Afrileston from KSBSI, affirmed that the Sustainable Development chapter included in the CEPA should have a concrete and binding rules, and not the aspirational language that is currently included in the EU trade agreements.

“CEPA should contain effective mechanisms to enforce human rights, environmental and labor standards. The sustainable and equitable development goals set forth in the sustainable development chapter should govern the overall agreement “she stressed.

In addition, CEPA should also provide the affected community direct access to a complaints mechanism with effective remedies, and the Parties to the agreement must be under an obligation to act on complaints made through state-state dispute settlement. The CEPA shall ensure that, for this purpose, effective monitoring mechanisms are implemented, including by providing the necessary financial capacity and resources. ***


Contact Persons:

Rachmi Hertanti, Indonesia for Global Justice: +628174985180

Joseph Puruganan, Focus on the Global South: +639228299450,

Yuyun Harmono, WALHI:+6281385072648,,

Marc Maes, 11.11.11 Brussels: +32 497600442,

Roeline Knottnerus, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam:

Sulistri Afrileston, KSBSI:


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