In the reality of things, the Americans who are primary advocates of the laissez faire economy has no qualms about using the upper hand, which include strong diplomatic and international political pressures to twist the arm and bulldoze their way around.
Average Malaysians are standing up and making the call that TPPA must benefit Malaysians first.
21 August 2013| last updated at 11:19PM
TPPA must benefit all MalaysiansBy B.A Hamzah
3 3 Google +0 0 0 comments
ENSURING BENEFITS: Cabinet directive is a reminder to International Trade and Industry Ministry to be sensitive to people’s needs
KUDOS to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for taking pre-emptive measures on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
The cabinet’s decision is a soft reminder to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) to be more sensitive to the aspirations of the people.
Miti is accountable to the cabinet, which in turn is answerable to the people.
The cabinet has set the litmus test for Malaysia joining TPPA: favourable terms for those affected by the treaty.
The ball is now back in Miti’s court, which must make sure TPPA benefits Malaysians.
It would have been a different narrative if, for example, Miti negotiators were to first consult some experts in trade policy and the affected parties before taking on the “big boys” — five of the TPPA members have gross national product per capita above US$40,000 (RM131,820) compared with US$12,000 for Brazil and US$5,000 plus for Malaysia.
One trade expert that Miti should consult is Cambridge-educated and former Universiti Sains Malaysia colleague Martin Khor.
Had Miti held its belated “open house” much earlier and long before former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and others criticised TPPA, Miti would not have gone through this soul searching process. A few of us were among those concerned with Miti’s defensive style, which inevitably dented its credibility.
Members of the public are not privy to the negotiations. While we put our trust in Miti, we also expect it to do rigorous homework. Now, we know that a comprehensive study has not been completed and that no cost-benefit study in two critical areas was conducted.
We can only hope that the results of these studies will be made public as the people have every right to know what is in store for them.
Whether the Miti open house on Aug 1 was an afterthought or otherwise, the session was a welcome opportunity to “exchange” views.
Unfortunately, the forum turned out to be an unusual exercise in public relations. At the session, Miti merely restated its position that everything was above board. Of course, as expected, it promised to bring the expressed concerns for further discussion.
Knowing what we want is half of the picture. Getting what the cabinet has mandated is a challenge our negotiators must live up to.
Will the “big boys” continue to listen to our pleas and woes? Is it not too little too late to renegotiate the terms when the clock has started ticking? What is the fate of millions of Malaysians whose livelihood depends on the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) once the TPPA comes into operation, for example?
Many thousands of poor Malaysians suffering from cancer, AIDS and myeloid leukaemia, who depend on cheaper generic drugs, have reason to smile after the cabinet made a decision that it would not agree to any provision in TPPA that limits access to affordable medicine and healthcare.
Under the TPPA rule on intellectual property rights, only patented drugs are allowed. With regard to this, the Indians are more fortunate following a recent Supreme Court decision that rejected a patent for a cancer drug; the cheaper generic version costs only US$165 and the patented drug US$2,666 a month.
Renegotiating issues like jurisdiction in the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, status of government procurement policies, status of SOEs, policies on financial services, including capital controls, and the impact of intellectual property rights on the cost of medicine and healthcare is, in my view, difficult at this late stage.
The multinationals are using TPPA to rewrite the rules of international trade and financial services. The multinationals are determined to rein in the role of state enterprises and promotion of local small and medium private companies, which they allege have been blocking access to markets in Third World countries.
The role of the state as actor in international relations will likely be eroded under the TPPA trade-imposed regime; the multinational companies have supplanted their role. The fear in some quarters that the state can no longer exercise sovereign immunity over certain trade-related issues is quite justified.
With the multinationals in the driver’s seat, anti-smoking pictures or slogans like “smoking is bad for your lungs”, “second hand smoke kills” or “smoking leads to cancer” will no longer be allowed. Governments can be sued for displaying these slogans!
In the interest of their business community and capitalists, the Americans via the official representatives are not shy to throw their weight around. Then, it was about how they build a series of ‘economic hitmen’ where economic power is used to do ‘subversive operations’, designed to overpower the politics and government.
Perkins said it best, via his bestselling confession in paperback.
Now, they are blatant into another phase where they are even willing to ‘bully’ their so-called ‘trade partners’ in the name of achieving their strategic objective. Their dominance via earlier gun-boat diplomacies are merely tweaked, to achieve the same desired results.
The father of modernisation, high technology and heavy industries and Malaysia Inc. policy Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad explained it best. In Malaysia, economy is used as a tool to address social imbalance, which is the most important key to political and social stability and harmony.
“There is a national objective to be met. We have a domestic problem and we have to solve this problem. They don’t care. Anyone who talks about the New Economic Policy (NEP) is labelled racist by our officials. When the currency rogues attacked us the purpose was to gain control over our economy. We resisted that because we were still free then. But after we sign the TPP we will be bound hand and foot. No more capital control. We will be colonised again. President Sukarno was right about neo-colonialism”.
Political and social stability in turn is a very important basis, coupled with careful strategic planning and catalyst created by the Federal Government, where economic activities are churned and propelled the nation forward. This promoted more commercial activities and entrepreneurism. As such, foreign firms started to be based and operate in Malaysia and capitalize in the opportunities created and made available in the rapid economic growth the past 40 years.
The balance of trade between trading partners should be resolved on mutual issues instead of a blanket-economic-policy-that-fit-all. The non trade barriers such as safety, standards and special regulatory guidelines to strike the imbalance of imports. Obviously, there would be differentiation of rights and what is worse, they would be no recourse.
American corporations needed to have the right tool to ensure their economic dominance is maintained in the region. TPPA In not so many words, TPPA is a tool for the Americans to dominate the geo-politics of the region.
The Federal Government via Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) says the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that Malaysia is a party in the series of negotiations, coming to the 18th round, will not be detrimental to the national interests. This supposedly include the strategic interests of Malaysian business community.
In reality, it is not. In fact, it is far from what has transpired so far and the direction that the nation, be it diplomatic, trade, strategic economic economic planning and even tactical issues like business opportunities, is heading.
In June, one of the concerned GLCs proactively organised a special briefing and discourse for Bumiputera technology-based entrepreneurs. The objective is to create awareness to the TPPA and how it will affect these Bumiputera businesses. About 80 entrepreneurs or their representatives interested to attend.
A few hours before the program started, an officer with the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur called and expressed their intention to attend.
This is the excerpt of the conversation:
“We would like to send our officers to attend”
“Are they Bumiputera?”
“Then I am afraid you can’t. This program is only for Bumiputera entrepreneurs”.
“We have a grave concern on the subject (TPPA). We want to be represented if you are talking about the TPPA. It should be a G-to-G matter. We shall report this to the White House and MITI”.
The glaring point here is that MITI did not make the call. An officer of the economic section (presumably) of the United States Embassy in Jalan Tun Razak did. TPPA is a matter for MITI to engage local stakeholders, not a diplomatic representative of the Department of State.
So there you go. Either the Department of State is still practicing the ‘gunboat diplomacy’ with a twisted tweaked approach and their representatives here do not realise that we are a sovereign nation and Malaysians are not and were never subservient to the Americans in any way.
So many already doubted the competency, professionalism and ulterior motives of officials who are forming all the ‘battle-plans’ and executing all the engagement for the TPPA negotiations. That is not withstanding the amount of information that they are addressing, with reference to the context and perspective that they are being raised.
TPPA was never transparent. The Americans expect Malaysians especially the government, to be transparent about all business dealings with the private sector and award of contracts and concessions. However, they never practiced the same. Even in the different rounds of TPPA negotiations. According to Fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, 26 chapters of the TPPA was done in total secrecy.
In the realism of situation and slowly snowballing, TPPA is compounding the digression of support and thinning of confidence towards Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s leadership. Even amongst the staunch BN and government supporters.
Needless to say, TPPA is already creating the ‘political pandemonium’ where the Federal Government via MITI has not able to address majority of not all the issues raised. The United States’ paranoia on it, is a definite push factor for Prime Minister Najib’s leadership, on the downside trending.