Despite widespread international opposition, trade officials from the 12 countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Atlanta, USA announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement on a devastating trade deal that threatens people and the planet.
The final texts are expected to be available within weeks. The TPP trade ministers’ press release states that to formalize the outcomes of the agreement, negotiators will continue technical work to prepare a complete text for public release, including the legal review, translation, and drafting and verification of the text.
Hence the fight is not over, the TPP still faces a number of procedures and challenges before being ratified at the national level. Firstly, the TPP is not yet signed and Malaysia will still have to decide whether to sign. The public and Parliament can still make their views known, and influence the government not to sign. Secondly the text of the TPP is still a secret and it is imperative that it be released so that the public can know what exactly it says and its implications.
However, enough is known about the TPP from the leaked texts and from reports by local and international groups and experts, to make us very concerned about its negative effects and to call on the government to reject the TPPA and not to join in the signing.
The TPP is a ticking time-bomb because it cements the unfair Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that enables foreign corporations to sue governments for protecting public interest and the environment. Many government policies needed to address public health, environment and global warming issues will be subject to suits brought before biased and undemocratic international investment tribunals.
Among others, the TPP is also a bad deal for public health. The TPP Intellectual Property rules will increase patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, resulting in high prices for medicines and for longer periods. This means that life-saving medicines will be out of reach for many who need them.
The TPP also has chapters on state owned enterprises and government procurement which would seriously curb the ability of government to continue to provide preferences and advantages to domestic companies, or to enable government linked companies from playing an important role in the economy. This would have very damaging effects on the socio economic structures and fabric of our country.
Even in terms of trade, Malaysia may not gain in net terms as its tariffs are generally higher than its TPPA partners, particularly the USA and Singapore. Thus Malaysia has to reduce tariffs by a higher rate than others, and this will lead to an increase in imports that will offset the expected increase in our exports resulting from the TPPA. According to one study, Malaysia’s trade balance could worsen by RM5-6 billion a year. In other words, the TPP would make Malaysia worse off even in the chapter (trade in goods) where Malaysia is supposed to benefit enough to outweigh all the costs in the rest of the TPP.
CAP and SAM urge the Parliamentarians, the public and all civil society organisations to scrutinise and analyze the actual texts of the agreement.
The Malaysian government must also release the Cost and Benefit Analyses of this trade deal. To our dismay, the government has yet to announce what is the compelling reason and justification for this TPP deal which is not all about trade.
It is also crucial for citizens to raise concerns about the TPP and to call on the government not to sign the agreement, as it would devastate public health, the environment, jobs, and our sovereignty.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS
SAM & CAP