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Memoranda/Appeal Letters:


Memorandum to the EU Delegation to Malaysia on Global Day of Action against FTAs April 11, 2013

Online Publication Date: 18 April 2013

MEMORANDUM TO THE EU DELEGATION TO MALAYSIA

On Global Day of Action against FTAs

APRIL 11, 2013

‘NO' TO THE EU-MALAYSIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

It was with great disappointment that Malaysian civil society learned the Cabinet’s agreement on 27 February, 2010, for Malaysia to pursue an FTA with the EU. Since the first round of negotiations between Malaysia and the EU took place on 6 December 2010 in Brussels, Belgium, there have been six additional rounds. Working groups from both quarters are discussing as many as 13 issues that official quarters have said will be concluded by the end of 2013. These include Market Access for Goods, Services and Investment, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Competition Policy, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Geographical Indications (GI), Government Procurement (GP), Sustainable Development Issues (Labour and Environment), Dispute Settlement Mechanism and Transparency/Institutional Issues.

Civil society concern stem from a number of issues that have cropped up over the contentious proposals that have arisen in the course of the talks:

  • Malaysia has a 71% rice self-sufficiency goal, but the EU is said to be adamant it will not discuss its subsidies to its agricultural sector in any FTA, although it does insist on cutting Malaysia’s agricultural tariffs in the goods chapter of these FTAs. This will expose Malaysia’s rice, chicken and many other farmers to subsidised imports from the EU being sold at prices below Malaysia’s cost of production. Just as Ghana’s chicken farmers went from enjoying 95% share of the domestic market to a mere 11% when they cut their chicken tariffs and were subsequently flooded with subsidised EU chicken and dumped chicken parts, we are concerned that a similar agreement to reduce tariffs in Malaysia would leave it more dependent on imported food and vulnerable to food shortages when such food imports dry up in times of shortage. Even before this last food crisis, Malaysia’s food import bill already put a strain on its foreign exchange reserves and led to imported inflation. It will be bad for both farmers and agro-industries in Malaysia.
  • Other likely FTA provisions are also likely to make it harder for Malaysian farmers to compete, for example by making inputs such as seeds more expensive due to stronger intellectual property protection (including via treaties such as International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants 1991) and preventing Malaysian farmers (via the EU FTA’s likely competition chapter) from doing activities such as cooperatives or joint marketing campaigns to try and fight the subsidised food imports.
  • A large percentage of the medicines that Malaysians consume are generic medicines, which are generally much cheaper and thus more affordable than ‘original’, patented medicines. In Malaysia, patented medicines can be 1,044% more expensive than their generic equivalents. We believe that EU proposals such as border measures, facilitating the obtaining of court orders of injunction against suspected infringers and inclusion of investment provisions will affect access to such affordable, life-saving medicines for Malaysian as parts of efforts elsewhere to seek broader and longer patent protection and monopoly and thereby making it harder for generic companies to produce affordable generic medicines. This would lead to delays and restrict the access of Malaysians to affordable generic medicines. Such TRIPS-plus obligations would go against the EU’s own commitment to the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which puts public health before IP rights and encourages WTO members to fully use TRIPS safeguard provisions to protect public health and enhance access to medicines for developing countries.
  • If government procurement is also opened up to EU firms, as reports claim the latter is seeking, this will significantly affect the viability of many Malaysian industries, including small and medium enterprises that depend on Malaysian firms supply goods and services to the government. Many SMEs will, in fact, find it extremely hard to survive as they strive to compete with EU firms for contracts in public sector undertakings.
  • Another point of consternation that civil society has had with the EU-Malaysia FTA is the utter secrecy, and the utter lack of transparency, with which the negotiations have been carried out. Nobody – outside the small circle of trade negotiators in the working groups and their immediate superiors and political masters – knows exactly what Malaysia and the EU are signing on to. Free and public debate and transparency – which the EU touts to be matters of principle – are definitely not the flagship principles by which the EU-Malaysia FTA is being negotiated.

The EU has always held itself out as a promoter of human rights and an advocate of developmental goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Yet, its trade negotiations with developing countries belie these claims. The United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria and UNITAID have all warned against developing countries, such as Malaysia, being forced to adopt exactly the sort of demands that the European Commission is making in this FTA.

Therefore,

We reject all TRIPS-plus intellectual property (IP) provisions that negatively affect access to affordable essential medicines.

We reject all proposals in general that negatively affect access to environmental and climate-friendly technological solutions, threaten food security as well as the access to and sustainable use of our rich biological biodiversity and access to knowledge.

We demand an end to the secrecy that has shielded the EU-Malaysia FTA negotiations from the scrutiny of national lawmakers and the public.

Signed by

1) Anti FTA Coalition (Gabungan Rakyat Membantah FTA)

2) Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

3) Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization.

4) Aliran.

5) Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.

6)Worker Hubs Fo Change (WH4C).

7)Persatuan Cahaya Harapan Negeri Kedah/Perlis.

8)Persatuan Kebajikan untuk Bekas Penguna Dadah Malaysia (PEKAS)

9)Persatuan Kebajikan Komuniti Ikhlas Malaysia.

10)myPlus.

11)Pertubuhan AdvokasiMasyarakat Terpinggir Kuala Lumpur& Selangor.

12)Socialist Party Malaysia. (PSM)

13)National Union of Bank Employees.

14)Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. (ABIM)

15)Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu (MTEM)

16)Pengasih Malaysia.

17)Persatuan Perkembangan Kesihatan Keluarga Pulau Pinang (FHDA).

18)PT Foundation.

19)JERIT.




 

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