CAP Urges the Malaysian Government Not To Sign the TPPA - The Trade Deal That Will Rob Our Future
Online Publication Date: 09 November 2015
CAP Urges the Malaysian
Government Not To Sign the TPPA -
Deal That Will Rob Our Future
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
(TPPA) text was finally released on 5 November 2015. This comes almost five
years after Malaysia joined the negotiations, during which the Consumers’
Association of Penang (CAP) had consistently called for disclosure of the text.
It is unconscionable that the government has negotiated an agreement that will
greatly impact the lives of all Malaysians in secret, for so long.
Yet, the two cost-benefit analyses and
national interest analysis that the Ministry of International Trade and Industry
had promised to carry out and disclose, are only going to be made available in
about two weeks time. The pledge to do so was actually made more than two years
ago. It belies all understanding that the government should fail to release
these documents, when – at least even in preliminary form – these should have
been carried out and made public before entering into the
There are more than 6,100 pages making up the TPPA text.
Detailed analysis of the text will take some time, but already we can point to
several adverse impacts for Malaysia.
Intellectual Property Chapter would enable pharmaceutical companies to maintain
higher prices for their medicines for longer periods and constrict the supply of
cheaper, generic equivalents. Of particular concern is the new obligation for
Malaysia to provide five years of market exclusivity for biologics medicines
(derived from proteins
isolated from plants, animals and micro-organisms), even if there is no patent, thus
preventing cheaper ‘biosimilars’ from entering the market. Many cancer medications are biologics,
including the breast cancer medicine Herceptin. This branded medicine costs a
total of RM136,000 for the entire treatment, putting it out of reach of the
average Malaysian. Cheaper biosimilars are desperately needed to save lives, and
the TPPA will prevent such medicines from entering the market earlier.
Investment Chapter is designed to protect and promote investors and their
investments. The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime is alarmingly
lop-sided in favour of large multinational corporate interests, giving
them extensive rights to
challenge government measures. On the flip side, there is no equivalent
mechanism for the same investors to be held accountable should their acts harm
the environment or if they commit human rights abuses. The burden of such lawsuits against the
government could be astronomical, given that previous awards to investors have
been to the tune of millions. Even more worrying is the potential that the mere
threat of such a lawsuit could deter government from regulating in the interest
of our health and environment. Although the TPPA at face value contains
provisions that allow states to retain their rights to regulate for public
health and interest, these rights have to be exercised in a matter that is
consistent with the government's other investment obligations towards the
investor. The net result is a loss for Malaysians at large.
Intellectual Property Chapter also contains the obligation for Malaysia to
ratify the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of
Plants 1991 (UPOV 91). UPOV 1991 is against the interests of our small farmers
and requires Malaysia to change its laws and policies to comply with the bad
provisions of UPOV 1991. Our existing Protection of New Plant Varieties Act 2004
allows small farmers to exchange farm-saved seeds amongst themselves and to sell
such seeds under certain conditions. UPOV 91 would not allow this. Changing
Malaysia’s law to conform to UPOV 91 would give seed companies longer
monopolies; prohibit farmers from exchanging and selling seed that they have
saved, and remove its biosafety protections and anti-biopiracy
on state-owned enterprises establishes a framework that will have far reaching
consequences for the future operations of government-linked enterprises in the
future. This framework is going to raise many constraints on how state
enterprises are allowed to operate in the future and this will have a major
impact on Malaysia’s political economy and social development.
of the TPPA have claimed that it will protect workers in Malaysia and promote
their welfare and interests. These include requirements on minimum wages, hours
of work, and trade in goods made by forced labour. Yet, the TPPA fails to patch
up the biggest hole of all: apart from the right to create independent unions,
all other provisions to protect or promote worker rights lack ‘teeth’ in the
sense of decisive and effective enforcement. So the fierce dragon that many had
thought would serve as protector and promoter of workers in TPPA countries in
the end has only one tooth. To add insult to injury, the Investment Chapter can
be used to challenge labour rights, for example, Egypt has been sued under ISDS
for raising its minimum wage.
There are many other concerns with the
TPPA. For example, the WTO-plus copyright provisions will keep educational
materials unaffordable for longer. There are also implications on our biosafety
regulations that have been set up to protect us from the potential adverse
impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and our ability to prevent the
biopiracy of our rich biological resources.
Therefore, once again, CAP repeats our call to the
Malaysian government not to sign the TPPA.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS