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PICIS Statement against the Korea-Japan BIT

PICIS Statement against the Korea-Japan Bilateral Investment Treaty

Between 20th and 24th December, representatives from the two countries will meet in Tokyo and finalise the text of the BIT that has been under much criticism from peoples’ movements of both Korea and Japan.

Source : Policy and Information Center for International Solidarity

"We Oppose the Sell Off of People’s Rights to Transnational Capital!!"

As the year 2001 comes towards an end, the Korean government is hastening its pace to finalise negotiations on the Korea-Japan Bilateral Investment Treaty(BIT). Between 20th and 24th December, representatives from the two countries will meet in Tokyo and finalise the text of the BIT that has been under much criticism from peoples’ movements of both Korea and Japan. The spectre of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment(MAI), which crumbled from the manifestation of the reality that the agreement will give unlimited freedom to transnational capital, bring continuous threat of economic crises to national economies and destroy the lives of the people, is coming alive between Korea and Japan.

Release the Text!

Peoples’ movements of Korea and Japan have manifested the danger of the BIT and have fervently struggled against it since its first proposal in 1998. However, the government has been publicising only the history textbook issue and the fishing conflicts in the East Sea - while keeping negotiating for the BIT in secret. Civil and social organisations under the Korea People’s Action Against Investment Treaties and WTO (KoPA), on hearing ’rumours’ that the negotiations on the text will finish on the 18th (which was the date originally planned), sent a questionnaire to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and asked for clarification and confirmation. However, the government is consistently arguing that it had been receiving complaints from the Japanese counterpart and cannot open up the text and the contents of the negotiations. What exactly is the government afraid of? That what the progressive sector has been arguing over the last few years will present itself to be true? That the Korean people will see the essence of the treaty, and resist just as the peoples of the world did against MAI in 1998? The government must stop immediately its secretive charade of trying to push with the negotiations, and release the text for public assessment and scrutiny.

The Investment Treaty is a method of institutionalising the subjugation of people’s rights to transnational capital!

The government makes no attempts to hide the fact that the investment treaty awaiting to be signed is modeled on the heavily opposed MAI. Just like MAI, which was correctly referred to as ’Bill of Rights for Transnational Capital’, contains clauses promulgating ’National Treatment’, ’Most Favoured Nation’ treatment, ’Limits on Performance Requirements’ such as local contents measures, and the ’strengthening of trade-related dispute settlement procedures’ giving transnational capital the rights to sue a nation outside national legal boundaries in international bodies such as the World Bank. Just as is happening in the Americas where capitalists are receiving millions of dollars as compensation from national governments that tried to protect environment or labour rights, with the Kor-Jap BIT, a Japanese company will be able to sue the Korean government and vice versa, for any kind of government restrictions that it judges as putting people before profit. Also, the issue that was at the heart of dispute, namely the ’seriousness clause’ which allows governments to directly intervene and suppress labour disputes, is said to be agreed at the level of mentioning ’cooperation between labour and management’ in an annex. However, this is merely a change of wording and the principle that workers can be suppressed for the sake of transnational capital remains unhindered.

Thus, the Kor-Jap BIT argues that various laws and regulations that had protected the people and national industries must be abolished, to give unlimited freedom to investors. The undermining of labour rights, environment rights and livelihood rights of the people will be justified. The Korean government is selling off the basic rights of the people to transnational capitalists, under its rhetoric of "luring direct foreign investment". With the signing of this investment treaty, the strong neo-liberal economic policies of the Kim Dae-Jung government -restructuring, privatisation of core public industries, liberalisation of financial market, liberalisation of trade- will receive a big push in the back. Also, because the boundaries of ’investment’ are obscure, there are high possibilities that the leash on speculative short-term investments will be set free. Even before the people are fully awake from the grips of the economic nightmare of 1997, the Korean economy (and most likely, the whole East Asia region) will be submerged into the depth of financial instability.

Globalisation of capital must be stopped through international solidarity!

After MAI turned into a complete failure in 1998 and contradictions of the WTO began rising to the surface, governments around the world are hastening to consolidate regional or bilateral FTAs and investment treaties. The Korean government, fearing exclusion from the global capitalist regime, is planning to sign treaties with the US, Chile and other countries as soon as possible. The series of bilateral treaties will lay the stepping stone for East Asia FTA, and also for the ASEAN+3.

The indigenous peoples of Mexico rose up on the day that the NAFTA went into effect. When the US-led NAFTA attempted to expand itself to FTAA, tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets in defiance. These global struggles and resistance were possible because a broad internationalist solidarity against globalisation of capital was formed.

Finalisation of the BIT text during the upcoming days will be followed by legal scrutiny and ratification from the National Assembly. The Korean people’s movement must establish solidarity not only within Korea, but also with the people of Japan, to stop the two governments from deceitfully passing the Kor-Jap BIT. And the solidarity must further on join to strengthen internationalism against neo-liberal globalisation, which was recently refueled through the global struggles against the WTO.

18th December, 2001
Policy and Information Center for International Solidarity

2001 / 12 / 30
BASE21 News Desk

 source: PICIS Statement against the Korea-Japan Bilateral Investment Treaty