By Satish Govind
WHILE lobbyists are at it again in advancing cogent arguments as to why Malaysia should ratify the controversial Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), many had suggested that we tread this path cautiously.
The underlying reason for the ratification is that it would increase trade and market access, the most important is to know if there are pitfalls.
The latest to caution Malaysia against the treacherous path is none other than our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir who said that “Malaysia needs to think carefully”.
In an exclusive interview with Business Today, he did not mince his words in pointing out that with the initial hatching of the idea of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), it was “skewed by the Americans with American business interests”.
Since the Americans “weren’t in it today,” trade accords forged by them would have their interests at the forefront, the former Prime Minister noted, indicating the need for proper scrutiny.
The pursuit of such agreement is beneficial to those who invented it with scant regard for others. For Mahathir, the evidence is by the fact that Americans who were the proponents of the TPPA wanted others to join in the TPPA but showed little regard to the concept of Zopfan (zone of peace freedom and neutrality) by Asean countries.
Activists against the CPTPP have always highlighted the many pitfalls that it may present versus the benefits, and as such, the stakeholders have to carry out a careful analysis before entering into such a grouping.
Tun Mahathir in this interview cautioned the policy-makers against stepping into the path without caution as they are contentious chapters in the CPTPPA that must be looked at carefully.
The dreaded legacy of the TPPA is still infused in CPTPP and among the contentious chapters on intellectual rights and the investor-state dispute settlement provision.
While the Americans are not in the CPTPP, it was conceived when they were part of the grouping and they might just decide to go into the grouping with their interests already spelt out.
Tun Mahathir’s reminder that Malaysia must not hasten its ratification could not have been more timely when there is compelling evidence of those who chose the dreaded path and had paid dearly is before us to see.
“We have to examine the agreement and be careful. If they (US) are with us, it is going to be a problem, and if they are not, they will cause problems,” says Tun Mahathir.
Tun Mahathir’s reasoning that any decision to ratify the CPTPP and his reminder to policy-makers to undertake a detailed study on the agreement comes as the world enters a turbulent phase.
If Malaysia adheres to the chapter on intellectual rights, then pharmaceutical firms can raise their value of trade and with the increased cost of medicines making healthcare which is a necessity of its populace, unaffordable.
Many in the developing world have also expressed similar concerns over this, as they struggle to provide affordable healthcare.
Adhering to this contentious chapter would make the gradient of taking care of the welfare of its people steeper.
Without the ability to make generic pharmaceuticals, many people in the industrialised world would be subjected to serious consequences in their health care.
Then there are the investor-state dispute settlement provisions which would allow foreign companies to sue host country governments for loss of profits, including future profits due to policy changes that promote national interest.
Legal experts have chimed in to say that tribunals would override national laws and judiciaries in the country which would be relegated to a subservient role.
*Republished with permission from the writer.