05 August 2013

Putrajaya must allow Parliament to debate the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) before committing the country to the controversial and secretive trade deal, PAS information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said today.

Saying the agreement could have far-reaching effects on the country’s ability to chart its own economic course, Tuan Ibrahim said it was vital to pore over the details of the treaty while the country still possessed the leverage to negotiate.

“The TPPA must be presented and discussed in the Parliament from the angle of ‘Why should Malaysia overturn and reject TPPA?’ before any decision is made,” he added.

Putrajaya should also not proceed with the agreement until no further evidence is found to support its rejection.

Tuan Ibrahim said the move last week by ratings firm Fitch to downgrade its outlook on Malaysia’s sovereign debt from “Stable” to “Negative” meant it was doubly vital for the country to parlay with others discussing the deal while it could still do so.

“Malaysia’s economic standing is getting weaker, thus the government is not in a position to negotiate and they need to ensure TPPA will benefit the country overall,” he said in a statement today.

Mooting a special parliamentary debate on the issue, the former Pahang assemblyman suggested that ex-leaders of the country and former Bank Negara governors be invited to present their opinions on the TPPA along with economic experts.

PAS’s main point of contention with the TPPA was the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause that would allow foreign firms to bring member states to court if public policies are made against their interests.

Tuan Ibrahim hypothesised that in a scenario of economic crisis and sharp devaluation of the ringgit, Malaysia may lack the financial resources to contest such lawsuits in an international court.

“This is unfair to small countries that are involved in TPPA,” he said.

Last month, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad levelled the same criticism, among others, against the TPPA, saying Malaysia would lack the expertise to fend off such lawsuits.

“They will have the best lawyers, lots of them. We will exhaust all our funds to pay our less experienced lawyers. At the end we will lose and pay indemnities and fees running into billions. And we will continue to pay until we comply. And when we comply we will lose more money,” Dr Mahathir predicted then.

The TPPA is a free trade agreement that has been negotiated by the US, Malaysia and nine other nations as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership since 2010.

Critics allege that the agreement has since been co-opted by powerful corporations to allow them to trample over existing consumer, worker and environmental rights in signatory countries.

Although it is not definitively known how much — if any — of the allegations are true, the secretive nature of the negotiations continues to provide a fertile breeding ground for such speculation.

The 19th round of the TPP negotiations is scheduled to be held from August 22 to 30 in Brunei. 


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