Nurul Izzah Anwar

Posted by Unknown | Posted on 11:21 PG

Nurul Izzah Anwar

To TPPA or not to TPPA?

Posted: 04 Aug 2013 01:24 AM PDT

AUGUST 04, 2013
AUG 4 ― When the media mistakenly writes that the investor-state dispute settlement or ISDS is a chapter in a trade agreement document which it is not; you know something is not right. (See: Nurul Izzah: Don't bow down to pressure on TPPA)

The confusion whether ISDS is a chapter by itself or a sub-topic under the Investment chapter illustrates my belief that all stakeholders especially the public are kept in the dark and are unable to see the entire picture of TPPA — akin to the proverbial six blind men touching the elephant.

Talking about elephants, the biggest elephant in the room that was not discussed at the 18th round of TPPA negotiations in Sabah last week is that the net benefit will be in favour of the US rather than Malaysia. This will include effects on the pharmaceutical sector which favour the US and unfair competition for our food producers

such as rice farmers from US agricultural products which can be sold cheaply because they are heavily subsidised by the US government.

By signing the TPPA, will Proton be able to sell more cars in the US? Will our SMEs be awarded contracts by US firms in the oil and gas and other fabrication industries? Will our 'Tongkat Ali' tea products fill the shelves of Wal-Mart in Chicago? Will Petronas be allowed to purchase any US-based petroleum company freely? Will our

Brahim's prepared food company win contracts to supply the US Army with rations?

One of the few sectors that may benefit is the textile industry that unfortunately relies on cheap labour in stressful working conditions. Moreover there is a "yarn forward rule" required by the US in its FTAs, i.e. countries including Malaysia need to make use of yarn from the US of other TPPA countries as a condition enjoy the no-tariff or low-tariff status for our textiles or clothing. This would increase the production cost and thus reduce the net benefit to Malaysia.

Furthermore, we would be competing with other lower wage and lower cost countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

There are many other contentious issues which, if agreed to in a signed TPPA, will adversely affect Malaysians. These include higher medicine prices due to stronger patents, new rules which the TPPA will ask the country to adopt as domestic policies such as how the government spends its money (government procurement) and the operations of state enterprises. The freedom to make or change our own policies will be curbed. Moreover, foreigners will be allowed to sue the Malaysian government in a foreign court and claim millions (or hundreds of millions) of ringgit in compensation on the grounds that Malaysia is not following the TPPA rules.

These are all serious issues with serious effects and need open public debate and careful consideration. With 29 chapters of TPPA on various topics, it is indeed impossible for the public to be appraised of it all by October this year. Therefore I call for the BN minority government to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee and not just a caucus that will be assisted by all the necessary experts — and the TPPA must be ratified by Parliament before signing.

I fail to understand why we are in a hurry to conclude the TPPA in secrecy when the net benefits are clearly doubtful compared to the many disadvantages already outlined unless there is another hidden agenda that the government is not disclosing to the public — which has led to various speculations including the desire of the PM to please the US by rushing to sign it during the upcoming President Obama's visit here in October — to the desire of BN to use this as an economic and geopolitical leverage with China, which is one of our strategic trading partners — to the possibility of another failed international negotiation such as Pulau Batu Putih or Blok L and M petroleum blocks — is making the public less tolerant on BN's continued missteps.

We therefore need the government to listen and do the right thing for once — which is to protect our national interest first through a Parliamentary Select Committee and Parliament Ratification.

Then, and only then do we ask the question, do we TPPA or not?

* Nurul Izzah Anwar is the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai and Vice President of KEADILAN.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.


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