“Trust the Government, we know what is best for you”. This is sheer pomposity on the part of the Government and we fear that our and our future generation’s life and livelihood would be in jeopardy if we are not careful in what the Government is signing us up for.
When the text of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and likewise the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement are kept secret and we have seen the adverse effects of such FTAs in other countries, should we keep silent and trust the Government?
If the FTAs are going to be so beneficial for the rakyat, why is the Malaysian government not releasing the text of agreements that are being negotiated to be scrutinized by civil society? Why hide behind the confidentiality clause?
Mere assurances by the Government or the Ministry of International Trade and Industry are inadequate. Is the Government afraid of a public debate? If the free market and open government really works, we should be able to see the draft of the agreement.
We have raised our concerns on many issues pertaining to the chapters being negotiated in the TPPA. For example we are concerned that TPPA countries such as Malaysia are being pressured into agreeing to patenting provisions that will result in the delay in entry of affordable generic medicines into the Malaysian market, wherein pharmacist-recommended generic medicines make up 84.7% of prescriptions requested. If these provisions are agreed to, Malaysians will have to pay higher prices for medicines for a longer time.
Some quarters assert that Malaysians could experience price hikes of 60%-80% for certain drugs, while other authorities assert that patented medicines can become 1,044% more expensive than their generic equivalents in Malaysia. The patented version of medicines to treat HIV/AIDS, for example, cost US$15,000 per patient per year, while the generic version only costs US$67 per patient per year.
Another issue of concern is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. ISDS is becoming an increasing source of controversy the world over because it allows foreign investors to challenge an action by the host government– even if such action was done in the public interest, such as over a health or environmental concern – on the premise that such an action had or would affect their investment or profits.
Would this bring about indiscriminate, unethical plundering of our natural resources and what would be the state of public health due to environmental pollution and degradation? But till now how our concerns are addressed in the negotiations via the text is yet to be provided by the Malaysian government. Thus our concerns still remain unanswered.
Free Trade Agreements are a form of re-colonization. “Globalization of the economy is a new kind of corporate colonialism visited upon poor countries and the poor in rich countries”, says Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist from India. “We are now being asked to believe that the development processes that have further impoverished people and devastated the planet will lead to diametrically different and highly beneficial outcomes, if only they can be accelerated and applied everywhere, freely, without restriction: that is, when they are globalized.”
We fear that the changes and reforms pushed by proponents of the TPPA have immense implications for Malaysians as a whole. It would be a mistake to sign onto a legally-binding treaty which can only been reneged at the costs of considerable international legal suits, settlements and further negotiations. It is not too late for Malaysia to withdraw from the TPPA.
The Government of Malaysia must do the right thing – WITHDRAW from the TPP.
Press Statement – 30 May 2013