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UNEQUAL PARTNERS: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement will allow big economies to plunder smaller ones
THE secretary-general of the International Trade and Industry Ministry avers that trade negotiations must be done in secret, I suppose by the officers concerned. There should apparently be no public debate, even within the government.
I don't think it is such a good practice, if indeed that is the practice. Let us see the record of trade and other agreements negotiated by the Malaysian government. They do not seem to favour Malaysia much. In fact they seem to result in Malaysia accepting unfavourable terms.
First, let us look at the water agreement with Singapore. Malaysia agreed to sell raw water at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons (4,546 litres). In return Malaysia can buy 12 per cent or less of the treated water for 50 sen. If the rates are to be revised both countries must agree.
If Malaysia raises the rate to 6 sen per 1,000 gallons (i.e. 100 per cent) then Singapore can raise by the same factor to RM1 per 1,000 gallons of treated water. This is not going to benefit Malaysia. And so we never tried to renegotiate the prices.
The first agreement lapsed in 2011 and we did not renegotiate at all. The next agreement will lapse in 2060. So we will be getting 3 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water when the cost of living has probably gone up many-many times.
To avoid Singapore revising the price of water if we raise the price of raw water, Johor was given enough money to build its own treatment plant. Not having to depend on supply from Singapore, we could raise the price of raw water without Singapore raising the price of treated water.
I am told that Johor still needs to buy treated water from Singapore. I really do not know why. So, the price has not been renegotiated and I suppose will not be renegotiated until 2060.
Today, the Singapore dollar is 21/2 times the value of the Malaysian ringgit. At the time of the agreement it was one to one. Are we receiving payment in Singapore dollars or Malaysian ringgit? Or is this a secret also?
Frankly I don't think we thought very carefully when we negotiated. Incidentally, Johor sells water at 30 sen per 1,000 gallons to Malacca, i.e. 1,000 per cent higher than to Singapore.
There are many agreements entered into by Malaysia that are unfavourable to us.
For example, the Afta, the Asean Free Trade Area. We agreed that cars with 40 per cent local content qualify as national cars and allowed tax-free entry into Asean markets. Forty per cent local content is easily achieved by non-Asean cars produced in Asean countries.
This means Japanese, Korean, Chinese and European cars can get Asean countries' national status merely by being assembled in Asean countries with batteries, tyres and a few other components.
We produce the Proton in Malaysia with 90 per cent local content. Naturally, our costs are higher and cannot compete with non-Asean cars assembled in Asean countries. While these cars flood the Malaysian market, hardly any Proton is seen in Asean countries.
The negotiators may think they negotiated a good deal but I just don't think so. We are simply opening our markets to countries with closed markets.
But to make matters worse, while Proton must comply with Malaysian safety and other standards, imported cars are given exemptions from most of these.
If Proton wishes to export to the countries of the manufacturers, it must comply with all their standards. So far, we cannot export to Japan, Korea and Europe.
This is how good the agreements which we have entered into upon closer examination.
Now, we are negotiating the American-conceived TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. This is another attempt by America to let their huge corporations penetrate the markets of the small countries, in particular, government procurement.
When the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) failed they invented WTO (World Trade Organisation) for the same purpose. That also failed. They then invented Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). Still, they could not achieve their objective. They introduced bilateral free trade agreements.
Then, they promoted a globalised world, a world without borders in which their money can go anywhere, destroy economies and then pull out. In case we have forgotten, they did this in 1997/98.
Still, they cannot get at government procurement. And now they invented TPP, a partnership of unequals, of the strong to take advantage of the weak.
This is going to be legally binding. If we breach the agreement, their corporations can sue the government for billions. I have my doubts about our ability to convince the international arbitrators or courts. We cannot even convince the World Court over Pulau Batu Puteh.
They will have the best lawyers, lots of them. We will exhaust all our funds to pay our less experienced lawyers. At the end, we will lose and pay indemnities and fees running into billions. And we will continue to pay until we comply. And when we comply we will lose more money.
We have a domestic problem, which we must solve. They don't care. Anyone who talks about the New Economic Policy is labelled racist by our officials.
When the currency rogues attacked us the purpose was to gain control over our economy. We resisted because we were still free then. But after we sign the TPP we will be bound hand and foot. No more capital controls. We will be colonised again. President Sukarno was right about neo-colonialism.
I know MITI is set to agree to the TPP. It will not entertain any counter arguments. It wants to do this secretly. We don't punish people who make agreements detrimental to the interest of this country. So what is there to lose?
This is my country as much as it is the country of the officials and politicians. If people secretly do harm to my country I have a right to complain. We talk a lot about transparency. Let us see transparency regarding the TPP negotiations. The October ultimatum should be ignored. And let China be included.