TPPA: Kudos to Prime Minister Najib

August 18, 2013

TPPA: Kudos to Prime Minister Najib

by BA Hamzah, DSDK

NajibKudos to Prime Minister Najib Razak for taking pre-emptive measures on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The Cabinet’s decision is a soft reminder to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to be more sensitive to the aspirations of the rakyat.MITI is accountable to the Cabinet, which in turn is answerable to the rakyat.

The Cabinet has set the litmus test for Malaysia joining the TPPA: favourable terms for those affected by the Treaty. The ball is now back in MITI’s court, which must now make sure the Treaty benefits Malaysians.

It would have been a different narrative if, for example, the MITI negotiators were to first consult some experts in trade and investment policy and the affected parties before taking on the “big boys”. [Five of the TPPA members have GNP per capita above US forty-thousand dollars; US$12,000 for Brazil and US$5,000 plus for Malaysia].

One trade expert that MITI should forthwith consult is the Cambridge- educated, former USM colleague and Penang- based columnist for The Star Martin Khor.

Had it held its belated “Open House” much earlier and long before Tun Mahathir and others criticised the TPPA, MITI would not have to go through this wrenching soul searching process. A few of us including my good friend and blogger, Dato’ Din Merican and I are concerned with MITI’s defensive style, which has inevitably dented its credibility. MITI should not behave like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.

Members of the public are not privy to the negotiations. While we put our trust in MITI, we also expect it to do rigorous homework. Now, we know that a comprehensive study has not been completed and that no cost-benefit study in two critical areas was conducted.

We can only hope that the results of these studies will be made public as the rakyat has every right to know what is in store for them. MITI is not empowered to act without the consent of Parliament, which represents us, the people.

Whether the MITI Open House on August 1 was an afterthought orDatuk-Seri-Mustapa-Mohamed otherwise, the session was a welcome opportunity to “exchange” views. Unfortunately the forum turned out to be an unusual exercise in public relations. At that session, MITI merely restated its position that everything was overboard. Of course, as expected, it promised to bring the expressed concerns for further discussion.

Knowing what we want is half of the picture. Getting what the Cabinet has mandated is a challenge that our negotiators must live up to. Will the “big boys” continue to listen to our pleas and woes? Is it not too little too late to renegotiate the terms when the clock has started ticking? What is the fate of million Malaysians whose livelihood depends on the state-owned–enterprises (SOEs) and small- and- medium enterprises (SMEs) once the TPPA comes into operation, for example?

Many thousand poor Malaysians suffering from cancer, AIDS and myeloid leukaemia who depend on cheaper generic drugs have reasons to smile after the Cabinet made a decision that it would not agree to any provision in the Treaty that limits access to affordable medicine and healthcare.

Under the TPPA rule on intellectual property right, only patented drugs are allowed. With regard to this, the Indians are more fortunate following a recent Supreme Court decision that rejected a patent for a cancer drug; the cheaper generic version costs only US$165; the would- be- patented drug costs US$2,666 a month!

Renegotiating issues like jurisdiction in the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, status of government procurement policies, status of state-owned enterprises, policies on financial services including capital controls, and the impact of intellectual property rights on the cost of medicine and healthcare, is, in my view, difficult at this late stage.

The multinationals are using the TPPA to rewrite the rules of international trade and financial services. The multinationals are determined to rein in the role of state enterprises and promotion of local small and medium private companies, which they allege have been blocking access to markets in Third World countries.

The role of the state as actor in international relations will likely to be eroded under the TPPA trade-imposed regime; the multinational companies have supplanted their role. The fear in some quarters that the state can no longer exercise sovereign immunity over certain trade -related issues is quite justified.

NajibWith the multinationals in the driver’s seat, anti-smoking pictures or slogans like “smoking is bad for your lungs”, “that second hand smoke kills” or “smoking leads to cancer” will no longer be allowed. Governments can be sued for displaying these slogans!

Whether PM Najib Razak will call- off the unpopular TPPA depends on many factors–external and domestic. Externally, withdrawing from the TPPA will not endear KL to Washington especially when Malaysia is hosting President Obama in October. Domestically, it depends on how much the Treaty will affect his chances of retaining UMNO Presidency in the upcoming UMNO General Assembly slated for October, too. On balance, however, when push comes to shove, the latter will have the final say.

17 thoughts on “TPPA: Kudos to Prime Minister Najib

  1. The principle to be observed in all negotiations should be people first. Agreements must benefit the people, not please the US or any other country. If the TPPA is detrimental to our national interest, Prime Minister should call it off. For this to happen his own party must endorse that course of action. Obama too would do the same if the TPPA does not benefit Americans. –Din Merican

  2. The fact that MITI did not finished its research before it went ahead to ramp TPPA down Malaysians’ throat suggests one of 2 things :

    1. The blokes at MITI have no idea what TPPA is about or even what their role in MITI is all about. Reminds me of the Pulau Batu Putih joke.

    2. Like most other government contracts by BN and their goons, no disclosures have been made as to whether there are any undisclosed benefits to certain individuals or parties, if Malaysia signs up on the TPPA.

    Both scenarios paint a very scary future for Malaysia.

  3. On principle every leader should place their people first; the mass below middle class. All the more so in Malaysia for affordability to health care and basic quality of life. Those who are upper middle class and above can pay for luxuries. By that, the line on the sand can be drawn and revised over regular intervals as per cap income improves.

    Example long ago, almost every one pirate PC software incl corp. but that changed over time when our income rose while MSoft made it more affordable. Now, students get it installed at their univ for a small token. In the PRC, the piracy continues as students get a heroic knack at cracking codes and circumvent IP. The same applies to movies.

    Due to higher per cap income, Brunei, Sg and HK can make ready exchanges with the US. Till we earn our ways to that boat, we can only regard lower specs befitting Malaysians and of course means for localization with our resources that Bru, Sg and HK don’t have. We have to rely on MITI for due-diligence and at the same time adopt a bipartisan approach for Pakatan’s check and balance.

  4. If it is too late to renegotiate the TPPA to our benefit then it’s better off for Malaysia to pull out of the negotiation for the time being, after all China, the 2nd largest global economy, will not be in it.

  5. Two huge pop buy our CPO; PRC and India. CPO is quoted in $.

    “The rupee has lost 57% of its value against the US currency since it peaked at 39.40 rupees to the dollar in February 2008.
    Part of the reason for the currency’s most recent slide — it has fallen 13% this year against the greenback – lies outside Indian policymakers’ remit.”

    OTOH CNY has strengthened perhaps from 7.5 to 6.6:$

    How is CPO going to play out our bargaining chips in TaPak?

  6. And if it comes to protecting one’s xxxx the “latter will have a final say” So what’s the point of this dumno asking MITI to be sensitive to the Rakyat’s interest when his own xxxx he is protecting at the party elections.We Malaysians are being taken on a ride on the superhighways.Just like all the highways the 47% followed him on just before GE13.Anyway the US president had his reason for endoresing the last election results as he is now coming here o wine and dine at our expense.

  7. There are no experts in MITI? Okay..
    Martin Khor is an expert? Okay..
    Tell me something terrible about the TPPA, that all you pundits know, that i don’t.
    What does ‘detrimental’ to the country mean exactly? Or is it just vested interests and in most cases, oblivion?

    The 21 articles which are being negotiated, like the IP rights and patency issues; arbitration process, agri subsidies etc. Negotiation under MITI, as the lead agency has been on-going since the idea was mooted in Hawaii. Can negotiations be open? I doubt such an approach would be successful – it’s like baring your naked body to all and sundry. Yes, they should have more open days to engage interested parties, but this ain’t a social event!

    Let me put it this way – don’t oppose or throw up road blocks, unless you really know what is going on. Look at Muthu’s comment – is that fair? The Parliamentary Oversight Committee should be in the loop. Are they?

    The TPPA is going to take some time to resolve – but the upshot is that it becomes an open field and will force meritocracy, efficiency, competitiveness and transparency. If you guys insist on a developed nation status, this is a good start. If you think that we’d be better off with a siege mentality, Bumiputra-ism, Ali-Baba-ism, corruption, protectionism and all kinds of parochial sentiments – by all means call it off. Might as well ‘de-globalize’ then. Japan is in the process and PRC will join when they sort out their priorities. The earlier we join, the more say we have and on our terms – which is on a scale.

    My bet is that the GST of 4-5% and reduction of some subsidies will happen sooner, rather than later by the next budget. Imagine, we have an income tax base of about 850,000 supporting a population of 27 million. And the domestic debt is going through the roof! It’s well and good to say stop leakages and so on.. But the reality is that it ain’t happening – cuz UMNOb has a (literal) ‘death-grip’ on the kampong idiots.

    Our industries are dying, because there is no impetus and new direction. The Cabinet and EC had be warned, but there’s no Political Will to effect any change! How to export when the technology is dated and expired? Pemandu keeps talking about ‘Domestic’
    consumption. Exactly, what is that – GOK?!

  8. Oops! EC in the last para stands for Economic Council, not Election Commission – but both are just as ‘Lembek’. There should be a Lead Agency with clout – right now, every Ministry is playing with their ding-dongs. Pemadu ada mah.. All talk and no action nor direction.

  9. Why Kudos to Najib? Why praise Najib for something he should be ON TOP of in the first place?

    This whole TPPA is akin to fighting a forest fire that should not have started in the first place. No matter what is done, the damage is done.

    The real question and ITS NAJIB THAT NEED TO ANSWER is WHY IS MALAYSIA NOT READY FOR TPPA..If the likes of Vietnam, Peru and now apparently Thailand is ready to jump in no question asked, WHY ARE WE NOT READY?

    The truth is Najib should be BLASTED for even taking so long to respond to criticism of the TPPA. It shows he WAS NOT ON TOP OF THE SITUATION AND ONLY REACTED WHEN THE PUBLIC HEAT INCREASED.- and he made sure his first significant respond is public to get cheers. Its FIRST RATE CRAPPY LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT..

    Pressuring the likes of NAJIB to hobble the TPPA is IDIOTIC and yet we are cheering it when Najib make a show as if he does what we want..Firstly, its not going to happen. They will simply just try but in reality either we have to join most of it or we get out..If we join we will be under pressure, if we get out we will fall behind in some areas.

    Its too little too late. Either way, we already are shafted – all under the wisdom of UMNO/BN and Mahathirism..

  10. CLF,
    I am not an economist. I am sure that introduction of GST is not the right time at this juncture. Unless you can figure out a way of not shortchaning the poor & the middle class. Simply those 2 groups does not have sufficient income to foot the bills. Meanwhile the rich would still get away with it even with GST

    • It is true that we have an income tax base of about 850,000 supporting a population of 27 million but our revenues do not depend on the collection of income taxes alone – there are many other taxes & duties the government collects. The revenue/expenditure situation will improve when the general subsidies such as on petrol, which benefit the rich as well as the visiting foreigners, are removed gradually while retaining & improving targetted subsidies to the needy like discounts & cash hand-outs. GST should also be introduced without further delay with the necessary provisions made to exempt certain essential goods & services targetted for the poor & needy. TPPA is clearly not our top priority for the time being if it cannot be renegotiated for our maximum benefits.

  11. The GST is a ‘consumption tax’. It broadens the tax base considerably and one pays only for what he/she consumes. The advantages are many – including a reduction of personal and corporate income tax., As its stands, we already have a service tax of 5%, besides excise duties for goods. This ST will be suspended.

    All modern economies have the GST, so tell me how do we classify our Malaysian economy? Retarded. The problem is not the Idea, but the Implementation which will cause all sorts of inflationary and corrupt pressures. We should be concerned about the monitoring and proper implementation – not the fact that it’s really needed.

    It is a simpler form of taxation – which has fairness built in. The poor and marginalized can’t ‘consume;’ as much as those folks who are irresponsible with their income and insist on being ‘Tayang’. Those who don’t consume, therefore pay less taxes – and some form of subsidy will remain in place – like for basic necessities. The level of subsidy for petrol and diesel is very high and not sustainable in the long run – especially when our oil output is declining. By 2020, we will be net importers – notwithstanding that all our ‘Tapis’ Crude is exported and we actually import lower grade fuel oil for refining. Why is our diesel still Euro-2, when even India is at Euro-3 and the lil Dot south at Euro-4?

    I feel that the ‘harga minyak turun’ by the Opposition is oxymoronic – and politically motivated. Why? Because the subsidy can be used for more important things like health, education and taking over the tolled highways. Those flurs who insist on buying Teutonic Barges, Monstrosities and Japanese Tongkangs ought to pay more for their fuel. Me? I don’t believe in hybrids, just a small efficient commuter that gets me around. Less farting is good for the environment.

  12. “Whether PM Najib Razak will call- off the unpopular TPPA depends on many factors–external and domestic. Externally, withdrawing from the TPPA will not endear KL to Washington especially when Malaysia is hosting President Obama in October. Domestically, it depends on how much the Treaty will affect his chances of retaining UMNO Presidency in the upcoming UMNO General Assembly slated for October, too.” – BA Hamzah, DSDK.

    “The principle to be observed in all negotiations should be people first. Agreements must benefit the people, not please the US or any other country.” Datuk DIn Merican .

    The two above quotes should be sufficient and surmise to say the Malaysian Government is well over its head in this matter. The American is and always has been and will always be.. has its interests into consideration first. The Prime Minister who is appointed because he is the head of the political party which won the most number of seats, should always has the interests of the nation and the rakyat first. There is no two way about it. It is not the matter damned if I do and damned if I do not. We are not like Singapore nor Thailand and perhaps to some extent the Filipinas. There are many internal factors and factions in Malaysia that require to be satisfied. It is a difficult job. If this TPPA is so detrimental, there the PM should have said No! outright. He is toying both with the rakyat and the American. Knowing the American will always seek other avenues just to spike us. I hate it when every time America sneezes, we are the one who get the flu! In once sense what Dato’ Din said is true. We should have not participate in the negotiations for so long. I am certain those who did the negotiations would have seen the outcome from the beginning. Don’ go look the light at the end of the tunnel.. tunnel itself is the keyword for these so called negotiators should be weary off. Why on earth didn’t they ask people such Dato’ Din for an opinion. Did they? or Didn’t they?

  13. CLF,
    GST is across the board. Everything including gambling would be subject to 4 or 5% tax. It’s a regressive tax. The fact that why GST is implemented because more people can pay tax. Tell how many super rich or rich are there in Malaysia. Who would pay in the end? The poor & the lower/average middle class. The sandwiched class is the one kenna whacked the most as always & in many many revolutions, it’s the middle class who started the fight. Just check through history la.
    GST is an additive tax. It’s like opium or like hotel california. Once you checked in, you can checked out but you will never leave. Malaysia ain’t ready for this

  14. Malaysia ain’t ready for anything, looes.
    We can no longer depend on Income, corporate, sales, customs and excise taxes only. Deficit budgets are dangerous and unless we can increase our tax base, our current account will be diminishing until Pokkai-dom comes.

    An additive tax should ideally make folks be wary of how they spend, but as i said there many Tayang folk out there. I foresee a painful onset with profiteering and so on when the tax is introduced, but that should settle down once the businesses get used to the idea.

    One very important point is that taxes like GST has to be set at an exacting ‘point’ – not too high nor too low. The experience in your beloved Singapore is a cautionary tale.

    As it is, Petronas is being robbed blind – all it’s profits are being squandered by the goons. Ideally GST should come in when the minimum wage has been set at a higher level and the retirement age reset – but they don’t have the guts to do the needful.

    GST on the other hand have a cumulative effect in increasing, not decreasing minimum wage. That being said, the social safety nets and subsidy for the basket of essentials must remain – perhaps with a smaller subsidy for petrol and a vast improvement in the Mass Transit and Public transport. The problem seems to be a lack of coordination, control and ability. Too much leakage and cronyism. The deficiencies and inefficiencies of the present system will bite our children in future. Anyway, we are out of point in this thread – but just to say that without the GST, TPP is a goner. Comprendo?

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