Without being allowed to go into the details of the finished chapters, we cannot guarantee nor prove that the ministry is keeping to its word, says Nizam Mahshar.
Bantah TPPA is shocked by the announcement of Prime Minister Najib Razak that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement should be concluded by the end of this year. This was reported on 23 May 2014 by national news agency Bernama.
We consider the announcement as a breach of trust. The government through Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Mustapa Mohamed had promised that this agreement would only be concluded once all of the 75 ‘Red Lines’ highlighted by Bantah TPPA were addressed.
The call to complete negotiations involving 12 nations in 12 months without even a thought to ensuring the feedback, active engagement and proper transparency of civil society and relevant stakeholders shows that Najib has capitulated to the demands of others involved without a care to the rights of Malaysians as a whole.
Bantah TPPA would ask Najib to remember his pledge in the report on 23 May and before that the agreement would only be concluded on our terms.
If not, the prime minister should be prepared to pledge dropping out of TPPA negotiations as it would be a waste of time to continue without guaranteeing our sovereignty is secure.
Furthermore, Bantah TPPA would also ask the prime minister to refrain from constantly mentioning that this agreement has more benefits compared to the cost of its implementation in Malaysia.
We ask this because the prime minister and his government has yet to release any substantial proof of this claim – and as such are promoting hearsay.
The government through Miti has promised as early as August 2013 to produce an interim Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) report as well as a National Interest Assessment (NIA) report within two months which they continually say are underway and would be the basis of the government’s decision on the TPPA.
If so, how is Najib promising that the “benefits outweigh the costs” when these research documents to determine such have not yet been completed or be made public?
It is this misleading talk with no factual evidence that makes the people and relevant stakeholders hesitant about the government’s dealings throughout the negotiations of this agreement.
Bear in mind, Malaysia is not the only nation with qualms regarding the TPPA. Australia still stands firm against the implementation of investor state dispute settlements (ISDS) and New Zealand’s people are against agricultural corporations breaching its borders.
Furthermore, Bantah TPPA questions Mustapa’s recent call for more transparency regarding the TPPA negotiations as reported on 20 May by national news agency Bernama due to the prime minister’s statement.
Can the minister be transparent while at the same time railroading this agreement simply to meet our prime minister’s suddenly announced deadline?
In so far as interacting with Miti, civil society has not been given a chance to be actively involved in the negotiations of the TPPA to ensure that our points are met and not under threat.
In summary, Bantah TPPA wants to know the details of the agreement, not the broadstroke “show and tell” sessions that have been conducted to this day by the ministry.
What we have seen thus far in interacting with the government is a constant promise that the 75 Red Lines we have highlighted are being held fast.
However, without being allowed to go into the details of the finished chapters, we cannot guarantee nor prove that the ministry is keeping to its word.
We have yet to ascertain any proof of what Mustapa is promising and – in some instances – have been told of contradictory stances by sources within the ministry particularly on the issue of medicine and intellectual property.
Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself in a speech against the TPPA has cautioned Malaysians that when our government joins international agreements, we have a tendency to lose out.
As such, it is a necessity that the negotiations of the TPPA be made public and allow constructive feedback from relevant stakeholders to ensure that Malaysians as a whole will benefit from it.
Nizam Mahshar is chairperson of the Bantah TPPA campaign.