Assalamu alaikum and hello i bid to all,
Recent news, be it from the media and even on the local newspapers, much has been said about the possibility of Malaysia signing with the TPPA (Trans Pacific-Partnership Agreement). The government and government linked media are relentless in justifying and clarifying the potential benefits of opening our doors to a bigger and free trade.
For those who are oblivious of the TPPA, it stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership where countries such as the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam are said to be involved in this partnership. This means that the participating countries would open their doors to more massive free trade, which would eliminate tariffs on goods and services and harmonize various regulations between the partner countries. If and when the agreement goes through, it will affect more than 40% of the imports and exports of the United States.
Now, looking at it from the Government’s perspectives, it will open more doors for bigger opportunities for our local business to export goods within these countries with minimal or no tariffs while enticing foreign investors to put their money in our country. This money will eventually be used for development, reserves and also stabilize our economy, financially. This can be considered as a good thing since the government rely heavily on FDIs and a great way to enhance the relationships between these nations. Infrastructures can be improved, bilateral relationships can be established and forged while simultaneously allow our local industries to flourish following the ability to export on a bigger scale.
The question is what’s in it for the people? Will these negotiations protect the citizen in a way that we still have our rights? Meaning we still easy access to medicine, protect our environmental issues, protect the so called Bumiputra rights, intellectual property, and even the protection of our policies that have been upheld for so many years? Are these issues mentioned in the agreement? Will entering the TPPA guarantee us economic stability?
On 14 August 2013, 61 NGOs and 10 coalitions jointly endorsed an open letter of protest against the TPP, called the “Bantah TPPA” (Oppose TPPA) letter. The Bantah TPPA open letter provided a number of key concerns that highlight the expected distributive impacts of the TPP. These include:
– Restriction on the country’s sovereignty and on government policy space such as capital controls and public health (e.g. tobacco control);
– Increased competition from imports following tariff reductions and non-tariff barriers, which would have an especially adverse impact on SMEs;
– Less room for preferential policies in government policies such as procurement, employment and government support for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government-linked corporations (GLCs);
– Environmental degradation;
– Ineffective protection of labour rights, lower wages and unemployment, and;
– Reduced access to generic medicines (in terms of availability and prices) and knowledge through intellectual property right protection measures.
The signatories to this protest letter include established and active NGOs such as the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, National Union of Bank Employees, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and Consumer Association of Penang. A reading of the list of issues and signatories to the Bantah TPPA open letter shows that there are concerns that the TPP may adversely affect the welfare of workers, groups of consumers (health) and specific groups currently benefiting from affirmative action policies (e.g. Bumiputra rights groups). Some of these concerns are not new and were also articulated during the Malaysia-US FTA negotiations.
The darkside to this agreement is that much secrecy has been emphasized when conjuring up these agreement since some of the issues are relatively sensitive to governments and companies alike. Eg; tobacco control. However, i’d like to argue that since this involves the country and the walfare of the people, i say we have the right to know. Explicitly articulate what has been negotiated in those relevant industries so that they will be prepared for what is to come. Due to much secrecy, many organizations, regardless of their political ideologies have united in standing against this agreement.
The TPPA allows greater control over the internet which will eliminate the possibility of freedom of speech along with the rapid reduction of keyboard worriors. Hahaha. Nevertheless, there is a bigger threat where the internet service provider will become the watchdog for Giant communications companies which, will have access to monitor netizens to “avoid” any unwanted comments, incite any hatred or create any conspiracy theories against the US or any other countries that is included in the TPPA. This explicit monitoring will also results to all bloggers, journalists, and writers being restricted; not having the luxury to express their piece of mind, with the absence of freedom of speech. And since the ISPs have to comply to these agreements, it allows (without warrant) these giants to “spy” on us to protect us from encountering any “copyright infringement”.
I’ve highlighted some of the issues that can arise if Malaysian conforms with the TPPA. It seems like the need to establish trade relations with America is vital in keeping our economy alive. Or is it? A detailed economic analysis and the sociopolitical analysis needs to be further studied and the repercussions needs to be weighed as this will determine the outcome of our economic and political stability. It will also be the determinant of the direction that Malaysia leaders need to follow in order to fulfill the vision 2020 prophecy. I urge people to open their mind and analyze the pros and cons of accepting this agreement whether it is beneficial or otherwise.
Analyze, assimilate and adapt