May 14, 2013
MTEM DEMANDS GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW FROM TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (TPPA) NEGOTIATIONSMTEM is concerned that Malaysia’s MITI is participating in the most advanced stage of the TPPA negotiations without first obtaining approval from Parliament. The TPPA has been criticized by many countries and civil society for being a lop-sided trade agreement that will benefit the Transnational Corporations and companies from the West at the expense of national companies. Specific provisions in the TPPA will ensure that countries who sign up will effectively give up their sovereignty. Despite the huge potential negative impact of the TPPA on Malaysia’s economic and political fabric, Parliament has not been consulted on the negotiations and there has not been any debate about the benefits of signing up to such a treaty. Instead MITI has taken upon itself to sign away Malaysia’s economic sovereignty.
The 17th round of the TPPA negotiations is now starting in Lima, Peru from 15-24th May 2013. Over the last 16 rounds of negotiations, in a 24 month span, there has been no public consultation nor information been provided to the public or the Parliament. Instead the negotiations have been shrouded with secrecy and conducted with very little transparency by MITI. MTEM has contacted many Malaysian Government agencies such as the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, industry organizations and even NGOs who will be affected by the TPPA and there has been an alarming ignorance about the direction and content of the TPPA negotiations.
MTEM has learned that the TPPA is planned to be signed and officially launched in October 2013 in a Southeast Asian city, most likely Bandar Seri Begawan. President Barak Obama himself has planned to attend the event in a move that is calculated to coerce any heads of state with lingering doubts to sign up. MTEM is baffled mainly because of the clandestine nature of the negotiation, especially when it involve national interest and poses imminent threat towards the nations economic prosperity, sovereignty and judiciary.
There is no logical reason for signing the TPPA when countries are already members of the World trade Organization (WTO). Critics all over the world have accused the TPPA of exposing smaller countries to maximum trade colonization. Member countries will be forced to open their economies and subject to potential lawsuits not from another sovereign country, but from international corporations. Critics contend that the biggest benefactors of TPPA will be the USA and other developed nations within the coalition. The TPPA is aimed at maximizing US investment interests in the region, as a strategy for containing the rise of China. Specific provisions in the TPPA on intellectual property protection will enable US companies to penetrate domestic markets and squeeze out competition from domestic companies. The US is currently the world’s biggest patent exporter and TPPA will be an ideal solution in prolonging and tightening their grip.
An example of risk in the TPPA can be seen in the investment chapter which promotes a lopsided, two-track legal system. Investment dispute settlement empowers any legal enterprise to sue the state outside of their legal borders. Usually it is the large Transnational Corporations who have the muscle, stamina and capacity to launch such lawsuits. There have been many cases when sovereign-states have been brought to court on mere technicalities and lost their case. These countries have been made to pay private corporations billions of tax-payer’s dollars. We have seen these trends in cases when Equador, Mexico and a few other countries have lost their case to US private corporations in bilateral trade disputes.
The TPP Agreement also highlights a peculiar ‘one solution fits all’ trade and investment law. MTEM is not convinced that the 12 potential member countries, with their unique socio-economic landscape and histories, should submit to one common legal system that lies outside of the democratic process. Malaysia in particular is a multiethnic nation with a well defined approach for developing the different ethic groups while at the same time maintaining the social and economic balance between them. The standards in the TPPA will view Malaysia’s economic policies as inefficient and legally wrong. For example specific TPPA chapters such as Preferential Treatment and Trade Barriers will make the Government’s1Malaysia products such as BR1M, KR1M etc. illegal. This will also apply to Government-linked Companies (GLC) such as Khazanah Nasional, Malaysian Airlines, CIMB Bank, Petronas, etc.
In addition the use of a ‘negative list’ in the TPPA will hinder any effort of Governments to protect, support and grow new and infant industries in their own country, while giving space and competitive advantages to US and other Western companies.
Prime Minister of Malaysia; Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak had in April 2013, published an ETP / GTP Report Card announcing all the magnificent economic achievements of the country and the fulfillment of its social obligation through the transformation program. If such report reflect through nature of business; these had proven that without the TPP the government is able to achieve its target and there is no reasons to lock this Nation of ours; in this pro-corporate regulatory bias and rights to demand compensation for new regulation through a secretly negotiated ‘trade’ deal.
MTEM is gravely concerned that MITI’s duplicity will compel the Malaysian government to sign the TPPA agreement without having due process. To sign an agreement with such far reaching negative impact on the country without even debating it in Parliament and proper and meaningful public consultation; an agreement where the risks far out-weigh the benefits. This will be a travesty of justice of the highest order and a slap on the face of the democratic process.
MTEM fears the prospect of TPPA becoming the Pangkor Treaty of the 21st century. When it was secretly signed in 1874, the Pangkor Treaty became the turning point for the independence of the Malay States as it legitimized British control over Malay rulers and paved the way for British imperialism in Malaya. The use of TPPA as a tool for neo-colonialism must be looked into by the Malaysian parliament.
MTEM is concerned about the outrageous secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding the TPPA negotiations – which will be applied to almost 500 million people in the Asia-Pacific region; and specifically to the 28 million citizens of Malaysia. Therefore MTEM together with its 50 NGO members representing half a million local enterprises strongly urges the Malaysian government to WITHDRAW further TPPA involvement until a full accounting and cost-benefit analysis has been conducted, proper and meaningful public consultation and presented to the Malaysian parliament. The TPPA must be decided by the people of Malaysia, not by secretive bureaucrats.