26 JANUARY 2016

Statement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade and Investment Agreement (TPPA) will cast a dark cloud over the future of our country and our people. It will adversely affect the lives of millions of Malaysians on a wide spectrum of economic, social, educational and health issues.

The negotiations on the TPPA have been shrouded in so much secrecy that neither the people nor us, as their representatives in Parliament, have had any clue as to the subject matter and the details except at the eleventh hour.

We do not oppose free trade agreements but we need fair free trade and mutually productive investments that benefit all. This TPPA does not. That is why today, I am joining my colleagues in the opposition in Parliament to vote against the TPPA.

The imposition of the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) rules is unacceptable as it will allow foreign investors to sue governments for action taken in the interests of the people. As head of the State government, I find it morally reprehensible that the interests of foreign businesses should prevail over the interests of the people. People-centric matters such as public health, education, housing and the environment cannot be sacrificed on the altar of private interests, be they domestic or foreign.

It is also a dereliction of duty for Parliamentarians to vote in favour of an agreement that effectively allows foreign corporations to bypass our judicial-legal structure which is sanctioned by the Federal Constitution. Signing this TPPA is therefore akin to signing away our sovereignty.

It is clear that the TPPA is also very disproportionately skewed in favour of powerful nations and their equally powerful private corporations. Among them are the behemoths that control the pharmaceutical supplies to the world.

Signing the TPPA means signing the death warrant for cheaper generic medicines for millions of ordinary Malaysians. Our current system already affords reasonable and fair protection for the pharmaceutical companies and there is no justification for imposing further restrictions at the expense of the people.

In the area of access to knowledge, the extension of the duration of copyright beyond the present 50 years after the death of the author runs counter to our policy for the democratization of education and to foster a more learned and intellectual society. It will adversely impact, for example, our national and state libraries in their on-going digitization programs apart from other deleterious effects such as disadvantaging students in their studies.

With the TPPA mandating equal access to government procurement, it will be a grossly non-level playing field and the local business community and state-owned enterprises will be greatly disadvantaged.

The right to freedom, life, health, knowledge and to be duly informed are indeed fundamental liberties which are self-evident in a constitutional democracy. Right minded Malaysians, civil society organizations and the people’s representatives must stand united to demand that these rights continue to be protected and not to be sacrificed for the TPPA.

Trade and investment must be pursued on an equal footing which then leads to mutual benefit. This will enhance diplomatic relations. Selangor, being host to many foreign investors, is fully cognizant of the need to encourage healthy foreign investment for long term prosperity and progress and this has in fact been the working model without the need for drastic one-sided trade agreements.

Likewise, at the national level, US companies have, for decades, charted an excellent track record in investing in Malaysia working within the current arrangements. The TPPA may have some benefits but the social, economic and health costs to Malaysia far exceed them and its operation will have severe long term consequences.

The TPPA which has such far reaching consequences cannot be allowed to be shoved down the throats of the people.

Why has the Prime Minister agreed to sign away the fundamental rights of Malaysians to medication? This is shameful and shows that he does not have the interests of the people at heart. Why has he agreed to sell out our sovereignty by allowing foreign corporations to take unilateral legal action against the states? He must also explain why he is letting Malaysia be party to a proxy geopolitical cold war in the region between the super powers

The Prime Minister cannot delegate the fundamental and critical task of convincing the nation why we should accept such a one-sided trade agreement. He must come to Parliament and face the nation and the rakyat.

Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali