Alyaa Azhar Free Malaysia Today 13 July 2013
The TPPA will have an impact on Malaysia’s legal system, environment and education, claims the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM).
PETALING JAYA: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will have an impact on several critical aspects of Malaysian life as a whole, claim the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM).
The association, which consists of 51 Malay economic NGOs, in its booklet has detailed the effects of the TPPA if it is signed, highlighting its impact on the legal system, environment, education and medicines.
Malaysia is currently negotiating with 12 other countries to conclude the TPPA, a multilateral trade agreement involving Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States (US), Vietnam and Japan.
Legal and Judicial system
MTEM claimed that corporations are pushing to have investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions included in the TPPA.
“This would allow foreign investors to challenge an action by a TPPA government, even if such action were a law, on the premise that such an action would affect their investment.
“Such a legal challenge would be made at an international arbitration tribunal outside of Malaysia,” the association said.
MTEM added that the ISDS empowers foreign corporations to override Malaysia’s domestic judicial, legal and parliamentary systems.
It is to be noted that decisions made at international arbitration tribunals have often seen foreign investors being granted greater rights than those provided to domestic investors.
The US is demanding that TPPA countries agree to a number of intellectual property (IP) measures that will ensure the greatest returns for its corporations, at the expense of the public, according to MTEM.
“Such measures include lowering the requirements for the patenting of medicines, so that even minor alterations of already existing medicines can be given additional patent protection status.
“The US is also demanding for patents registered by pharmaceutical firms to be lengthened so that generic manufacturers can be kept out of the market and drug prices can be propped up for longer periods of time,” said MTEM.
It added that the TPPA will also give customs officials greater powers to confiscate legitimate generic medicines based on mere suspicion.
MTEM further claimed that the TPPA could also encourage increased export of raw materials which would inspire even more logging, forest clearing and mining, by removing export taxes.
“Not only would this mean more environmental degradation, there would be less incentive for domestic industries,” said MTEM, referring to the country’s furniture industry, which the association said, may not survive if Malaysia’s export tax on raw logs is removed.
Research and education
The TPPA’s IP protection measures will also impact access to knowledge in the fields of culture, education, research and publication.
“There is a proposal to extend copyright duration beyond the present 50 years to possibly 120 years after an author’s death, which would impact on library digitisation programmes as well as students’ and the general public’s access to their works,” stressed MTEM.
The TPPA is an agreement that the US, the leading negotiator in the talks, hopes to serve the US’ role in developing a broader platform for trade liberalisation, particularly throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
“The US hopes that the TPPA would be the most comprehensive regional free trade agreement to eliminate trade barriers and increase opportunities for US trade and investment.
“The TPPA will also provide the US with an opportunity to establish new rules, such as regulatory coherence, supply chain management, state-owned enterprises and increasing trade opportunities for its own small and medium-sized businesses,” claimed MTEM.