TPPA Round 18 in Kota Kinabalu: Mounting Concern over its Negative Impact

July 12, 2013

TPPA Round 18 in Kota Kinabalu: Mounting Concern over its Negative Impact

by Josh Hong@

TPPAThe 18th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will kick off in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, starting Monday. While the details of the world’s potentially largest trade pact remain shrouded in secrecy, discontented voices in Malaysia are becoming louder by the day.

This week alone, at least two members of Parliament,Charles Santiago and Ong Kian Ming, have raised their concerns over the TPPA’s negative impacts. Nurul Izzah Anwar, too, has previously made her voice heard in this regard.

Santiago, for instance, warns that there could be a sharp rise in medicalong-kian-ming-sept2 costs following the signing of the TPPA due to intellectual property rights. Of greater significance is Ong’s (right) position on the TPPA, as the Serdang MP is a PhD holder from an American university, and his past silence on the American invasion of Iraq back in 2003 did give rise to speculations that he was somewhat sympathetic to the Bush Administration at the time.

In fact, Ong’s track record shows clearly that, prior to joining politics, he had hardly spoken out on issues that affected the average folk. More importantly, Ong has never been known as a centre-left figure ill at ease with neo-liberal economic globalisation. Seen in this light, his rather critical remark that the Najib government is rushing the Washington-initiated TPPA through in order to “please President Barrack Obama” is raising eyebrows indeed.

Whether Ong’s caustic view reflects his ideological conversion or just a means to gain political mileage remains to be seen. What is not to be disputed is that the manner in which the United States is bulldozing the TPPA results through, over protests not just in Malaysia, but around the globe. The Obama administration now aims to finalise the document by October this year – barely three months from now.

In a recently-issued joint statement, several health-related NGOs explain that, while “generic medicines save lives by preventing, curing and managing non-communicable and communicable diseases for all Malaysians, especially the lower-income and marginalised groups”, the TPPA would however “reduce access to these affordable medicines”.

And the statement is categorically opposed to “US demands for longer and stronger patents on medicines and medical technologies that are essential to save Malaysian lives”. Breast cancer and HIV patients would be exposed to greater risks should the TPPA be signed.

Indeed, successful TPPA negotiations will create what critics say is a “mega-treaty” that will compel the signatories – Malaysia being a potential partner – to adopt laws and regulations that would invariably favour big corporations in the decades to come.

Conglomerates salivating at SE Asia’s resources

As I have argued before, South-East Asia is rich in natural resources at which global conglomerates continue to salivate.

Despite the Malaysian government’s refusal to reveal the actual details of negotiations, it is gathered that areas under discussion include restrictions on sale and manufacture of genetically modified crops and foods, purchase of drugs and medicines, intellectual property protection in music, computer programmes and the digital media (which could affect domestic entertainment industries), and other resources such as mining and logging (think Sabah and Sarawak, for example).

And British Petroleum, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Apple and Warners and Sony are said be among the likeliest beneficiaries following TPPA.

Given that Malaysians consume a large portion of generic medicines which are far more affordable than their patented alternatives, the grave concern over price hikes in medical products is certainly not misplaced.

Even the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has questioned as to whether the TPPA would make storing library materials costlier. The treaty that is ostensibly about trade could extend the duration of copyrights up to 120 years after the death of the author, which could lead to libraries having to remove references or works that are already digitised – to the detriment of fair access to knowledge.

Shahril SamadWhile the focus of Malaysia’s bumiputra business communities is largely on whether or not the TPPA would force them to be open for wider and stiffer competition, more crucial is the issue that the trade pact could have repercussions on all segments of Malaysian society. When medical costs go up while general knowledge becomes more expensive to come by, it is Malaysians at large who stand to lose, not just the bumiputras.

In view of this, the proposal by Shahrir Abdul Samad, the Johor Baru MP, to form a cross-party parliamentary caucus so as to put the TPPA negotiations under the closest scrutiny is more than welcome indeed. Didn’t Najib himself say time and again that the era when “the government knows best” was over? It is high time he put his word into action by ending all the secrecy around the TPPA come Monday.

9 thoughts on “TPPA Round 18 in Kota Kinabalu: Mounting Concern over its Negative Impact

  1. TPPA? Apa itu TPPA? PAS would ask…. because as far as PAS is concerned, the more pressing issue is not that the TPPA will result in longer patent period for medicines that will raise price of medications especially generic and unbranded drugs… they think what is more pressing issue is women must dress properly so that they won’t get raped.

    I was shocked yesterday to read Khalid Samad’s twi on twitter that “pakaian yang menjolok mata atas menaikkan nafsu dan yang menjadi mangsa ialah kanak kanak kerana perogol pilih mangsa yang lebih mudah”

    OK back to the stone age for Malaysia Boleh!!!

  2. Din, is it true software like shareware and those other software applications even priced low for students might disappear with TPPA because the patent period and intellectual property protection is stricter? Can some of you in this forum please share your views coz I am not to well-versed with TPPA clauses……

  3. The USA cannot be trusted to do anything right nowadays. They have screwed up everything: the economy is in the pits because they have elevated greed as the guiding principles; their infrastructure is crumbling and their cities are in deep debt; education is in a mess; race relations is in the nadir; their politics is littered with corruption, with Wall Street leading Congress, the White House and the Senate by the noses; the administration of justice has veered far off the cliff; every wars that the US has engaged in for the past 30 years have resulted in national shame and unmitigated disaster; and, guided by shady Wall Street and ivory-tower intellectual think tanks they have lost one industry after another to other countries. Name any problems that beset any nation, the US has a chock-full of them.

    If the US cannot set their houses in order, what business do they have to mess up the world. One of the reasons why the US got into the present predicament is that they corrupt everything with MONEY.

  4. when it is shrouded with secrecy and its from a `now-all-know’ the most untrustworthy of UMNO led GOM, all Malaysians must perk up and listen to contrary and dissenting voices. Dr OMK, and his Opposition collegues may speak the truth about reservations, but they will not be heeded.

    It ia importnat that the Masses block this rush `to please Obama’ in order to retain Power by UMNO1
    Refer to rejections by other countries who have been bitten by litigations of this `American neo colonisation mega – treaty.’

    Access Prof Jane Kelsey of New Zealnd text `Hidden Agenda’ on TPPA, in which she declared that TPPA is `a direct assault on our right to decide our own future.’

    We have to be careful that many US – friendly graduates of American Education lurk in the `Corridor of Power’ and from the hangers-on of Jho Low!

    As it is, many are dependent on generic medications for major diseases as those originals sold by Specialist Centres are beyond the budgets of some income group.

    A cousin spent RM80k just for the 3 stents in his heart and his monthly drugs comes to nearly RM5k as compared to me, no stents just RM 400.00 monthly at UMSC!

    There is not only need for deep and intense scrutiny, we must dig into the UMNO `Hidden Agenda’ and say an emphatic NO to `TPPA with America!’

    Barack Obama, in the light of his military involvements in Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria, is an Untrustworthy man.

  5. Vsp, i seldom disagree with you. But according to your line of reasoning – of the ‘dysfunctional’ taikorism of the US – and their perceived inability to dig themselves out of the hole, is it not better for our most vaunted GLC’s and Petronas fuelled Monopolies to have open access to the world’s largest economy and it’s satellites?

    Let me give you a simplistic perspective on why the US is pushing for this Pact. With the US now in the throes of Energy, Food, Technology, Environmental and Human Capital Security and Self-Sufficiency, many of the major MNCs are relocating back to the US littoral, where cost-of-production is high. The Game has changed, and will do so in the foreseeable future. It will remain THE pre-eminent economic, innovative and scientific centre of the world – no matter what the mandarins of the Middle Kingdom desire or deliberate about.

    The only downside are unanticipated natural disasters or and ‘act of God’ like Yellowstone mega-volcanic eruption or Meteor strike – if you are a block-buster movies buff.

    Like many of you i have no wish that the US shafts this down our throats at this moment in time. I would rather we delay and set a timetable of our choosing, comfort and relevance. Let’s not be rail-roaded into something that is detrimental to our health – since our ‘immune system’ is at it’s weakest since Merdeka – with the likes of fascist-racists already running riot with their narrow agendas and a Lembek head-honcho more focused on his pedicure.

  6. Dear ShakrinalLikram @ 8:28am,
    Your cousin with the 3 stents has god Almighty as his consultant physician. There is obviously something wrong with the medication he’s taking. Ask for a second opinion.. In fact, even your medical bill will be seriously curtailed, if you are prescribed generics – made in India. But please don’t get those weed-killers from Thailand or Indonesia – you’d recognize them by the size of the tablet/capsule..

    The main issue for health professionals, is NOT only the prohibitive cost for proprietary medication – but the duration of patent rights. For now, certain MNC pharmaceutical conglomerates like GSK are producing their own generics – albeit at a slightly higher cost that locals. We are spending too much on prescriptive medicine and too little on preventive medicine. What to do.., we have Dunggu health ministers and desk-bound non-clinicians strolling around in circles within MoH. They’re still wondering where all the pit-latrines and night-soil buckets have gone..

    As for educational material, i remember those cheaper versions of the original from ELBS, Harpers etc which gave us 3rd world paupers like me, access to the same textbooks as our colleagues in the 1st world. I believe this policy must continue – otherwise our fotostat machines will remain ‘over-taxed’. Intellectual property rights definitely, but take a smaller portion can or not? Equivalents must also take into account ‘mean’ value chain pragmatism.

    Btw, i heard us Malaysians sold Rm 5.5 billion services and goods in Houston, during the Off-shore Technology Conference in May. Is that true?

  7. Say what you fellas want but I am always consistent of few things TDM did for us ok.. ..

    He is right about Pulau Batu Puteh, KTM land in Tg Pagah, Pension Fund issue, Water to Spore…………..He got balls on these issues.

    He is WRONG about Proton. We dont have a steel industry as natural resources to back up Proton unlike Hyundai which has a Steel Mine. We have oil for hard commodity, that’s it. PROTON failure lah…. Cant even design a floor pan, just styling only. The technology NEVER transferred, never learned.

    TDM allowed Najib to buy FA/18 and later Najib bought subs under Pak Lah.

    “But this is my country as much as it is the country of the officials and politicians. If people secretly do harm to my country I have a right to complain,” he said. – July 13, 2013. : NOT ONLY YOU….ALL OF US DO the same TDM.

  8. The original TPP countries, Brunei, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile were between countries that had almost no economic conflict with each other and hence removing all barriers were no issue. These countries already had FTA or were on their way to FTA with the US when the US announced it was joining it. Australia, Vietnam, Peru announced they were joining it that this thing started to get out of hand. The US do not have FTA only with Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei and of all the three only Vietnam would be the only developing country. Malaysia entered the fray in 2010 and Mexico and Canada, who have FTA would announce in 2012 joining it.

    The issues are not created by the US. The party was created by those who could and willing to party with each other. The issue is those who want to join the party but not up to it.

    Malaysia is caught in a rock and hard place. It wants and should have been able to join the party. BUT it can’t because its not ready. So whose fault is it?

  9. Look guys, the problem is not so much that the TPPA is a means to ease trade and investment, which is essentially what it does – but the secrecy surrounding the process and distrust/angst vis-a-vis our ‘vaunted’ negotiators abilities.

    The problem is definitely not MITI’s alone, as all ministries and agencies concerned must give their respective inputs. For example – MoH, MoAgri, MoF, MoT, Mindef etc. What is happening is that the system has bred dysfunctional lazy inbred sycophants who Exist not on meritocracy, pro-action, thinking outta box – but on toe sucking.

    Beyond all that vitriol of escalating costs and patency issues of intellectual property rights, lies the simple fact that Rent-Seeking, Negotiated Tenders, Monopolistic Hubris, Vendor Ripoffs/Incompetencies, Industrial Inefficency and Opaque GoM Procurement Procedures will have to be done away with.

    Do you think for a moment, that the Malay Elitists who pervade the System, will agree to this?

    That’s why our Dear Leader is afraid of his own shadow, and hiding behind the ample bottom of U-Know-Who! If the rabid Fascist NGOs can call for the diplomatic renouncement of the Papal Nuncio, why can’t they take to the streets to force renunciation of TPPA? Just give a finger, followed by a ‘Talak’ to UMNO! Octo has done it before..

    As for bigjoe’s comment, about the rock and hard place – none of the countries, with the exception of Taikor will be able to meet with all the original terms and conditions spelled out in the Pact. TPPA was in a sense hijacked with the connivance of the initiator nations.

    The Way forward, should be structured benchmarks, with each individual country – setting a time-table for fulfilling it’s obligations – as with PRC’s entry into WTO. All countries must play by the rules. Otherwise, what is there to ‘negotiate’?

    But looking at our current Leadership, or rather, Lack thereof – there is no Pemandu. It is not for the KSU MITI to become ‘transparent’ – it for the MITI minister to provide leadership and for the factions in the Cabinet to address our concerns.

    MATRADE is having a seminar on this in KL Hilton tomorrow, for the youth. I think, i go despite the fact that i’m way past ‘youth’, but at least that’s a start.

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