TPPA: A Reply To MITI – OpEd

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The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) commends the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) for its prompt response (“Cabinet will look after our interests” (NST, July 10) to the concerns that we had raised in our “Tread Carefully on TPP path” (NST, July 9). When citizens’ concerns evoke an immediate reply from a Ministry, there is hope for dialogue between State and society.

True, many of the concerns raised appear to be “claims” and “allegations.” The main reason for this is of course the paucity of official information on the TPPA in the public arena. Citizens have a right to such information since they— more than the huge corporations and State institutions — are the real stakeholders in this exercise. Given the significance and magnitude of the TPPA, it would be a mockery of the principle of accountability if citizens are only informed of what the TPPA is after it has become a fait accompli.

Besides, the so-called “allegations” deserve to be taken seriously since they have been analysed in depth and in detail in various articles, reports, information sheets and bulletins in the alternative media. For instance, a website http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/ points out that under the guise of “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” the TPPA would allow foreign investors to “sue the New Zealand government for compensation in secretive international tribunals over new laws or policies which they claim would significantly hurt their investments. This would mean that foreign banks, insurance companies and money traders from the other 10 countries (now 11) — especially the US — could challenge new financial regulations introduced to defend the New Zealand economy from speculation.”

It is because the TPPA contains elements which favour multi-national corporations and huge financial interests at the expense of the people that Chile‘s lead TPP negotiator, Rodrigo Contreras, recently resigned his post and warned people “of the dangers this agreement poses to everyone except the giant multinational corporations.” The TPP “is solidifying multinational corporate control over the internet, copyrights, patents (especially drug patents) and — giant financial interests are solidifying their current control over the regulatory process.” Contreras is of the view that this is detrimental to countries that are trying to “restore the space for applying financial safeguards. In these circumstances it does not make sense to further liberalize capital flows, depriving us of legitimate tools to safeguard financial stability.”

MITI has assured us in their letter that our TPPA negotiators will not allow this to happen. Indeed, the MITI letter is essentially an attempt to assure the Malaysian public that the government will protect the interests of the people. MITI’s assurance is welcome.

We are also encouraged by the move by the Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BBC) Tan Sri Shahrir Samad to form a bipartisan parliamentary committee to look at the TPPA. This is the right approach to take. At stake are issues that are fundamental to the future of our nation.


Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

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