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Monday, November 28, 2022

Groups urge PM to backtrack on CPTPP deal

With just one day to go before Malaysia’s entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is enforced, the Coalition of National Sovereignty urges Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to withdraw from the ratified agreement.

The treaty would be enforced on Wednesday (Nov 30).

Through a social media campaign, the coalition has reminded Anwar of his own appeal to review the country’s participation in the trade bloc made a year ago, with concerns over its adverse effects on job security and the country’s affirmative action policy.

“We must protect the nation’s interests in terms of procurement, intellectual property (IP) and affirmative action as these are areas in which we should help the people, whether bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras, who need our assistance,” Anwar was reported speaking at a debate in Dewan Rakyat, last November.

Through a petition signed by more than 20 economic experts and prominent figures, close to 60 NGOs, at least 40 trade unions and a growing list of ordinary citizens, the coalition is urging Anwar to pull out of the agreement that was ratified by Malaysia on Sept 30 this year.

Among signatories of the petition are Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Rajah Rasiah, Zakariah Abdul Rashid, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, Third World Network, Coalition Against Multiplicity of Unions and Akhramsyah Sanusi.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim

“Withdraw and postpone Malaysia’s participation because exiting the bloc, once enforced, will be very difficult.

“By that time, irreparable harm may have come to companies, farmers, government-linked companies and the people,” read the first of their requests.

Set up review committee

The petitioners expressed regret over the decision to ratify the agreement by the then international trade and industry minister, Azmin Ali without carrying out extensive consultation with civil society.

They argued that this was necessary especially because it would have major implications for the nation’s economy and the well-being of the people.

The coalition pointed out that the cost and benefit study provided lacked an in-depth risk assessment as it was biased toward export and investment benefits and was not debated in Parliament.

The petitioners then urged Anwar to establish a committee comprising academics and local economic experts to review the cost-benefit of Malaysia’s participation in the CPTPP.

“Following this, the finding must be tabled in parliament and shared with the public to allow for a broader and more in-depth discussion on the matter,” read the petition.

CPTPP redundant

The petitioners reasoned that Malaysia had already entered into direct trade agreements with the current members of the CPTPP bloc.

It stated that Malaysia was in existing trade agreements directly with seven countries which are Australia, New Zealand, India, Chile, Japan, Pakistan and Turkiye.

Through Asean, Malaysia has ratified eight other free trade agreements which involved the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.

At the same time, Malaysia has also entered into the largest trading bloc in the world - which was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and includes trading partners like Indonesia, Laos, Brunei, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“It shows that Malaysia has trade agreements with all the CPTPP trading partners with the exception of Canada, Mexico and Peru.

“However, Malaysia’s collective exports to these three countries in 2021 amounted to only 1.76 percent of total exports but also enjoyed competitive tariffs through a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement,” explained the petition.

Negative implications

The petition also raises alarm on CPTPP trading companies’ entitlement to government incentives while having no say in determining investors’ compulsory use of local materials, labour and talents or even transference of technologies.

The petitioners also cited concerns over the treaty’s investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) provision - which is said to increase investors’ power and corporate influence on domestic politics.

It has been reported that the ISDS was not an effective or fair dispute-resolution mechanism and therefore, was highly contentious.

“The treaty also requires Malaysia to join the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

“Through an agreement, Malaysia will have to enter into UPOV and it will prohibit the sharing and sale of seeds between farmers if the seeds were obtained from crops that were given plant breeder rights.

“This means, Malaysian farmers will have to pay royalties,” explained the petition.

The CPTPP also requires Malaysia to drop import tariffs to zero on all of the imported items entering Malaysia, which would encourage the dumping of goods into the country.

“This will have an adverse impact on small and medium-sized enterprises and in some cases may even force them out of business,” warned the petitioners.

Meanwhile, other organisations like the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) had also expressed similar contention on the deal that was ratified by the cabinet. - Mkini

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