KUALA LUMPUR: The government has been urged not to rush into inking the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
The Bantah Coalition in a statement said leaked versions of the negotiation reveal an alarming set of commitments and obligations that cover almost every aspect of Malaysia’s socio-economic life.
“RCEP is part of a new breed of so-called 'trade' agreements that are not just about trading goods. These agreements include services, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, state-owned enterprises, e-commerce and more.
“Malaysia also has much nation-building to do. We cannot afford to be strait-jacketed by trade and investment rules that predominantly reduce government policy space and national sovereignty in order to increase multinational corporate interests at the expense of the rakyat,” the coalition said in a statement today.
It said the then Barisan Nasional-led government signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) in March 2018 just before the 14th General Election.
"And now that this is publicly available, we can see how harmful it can be to Malaysia, so we welcome the Pakatan Harapan government’s decision not to rush to ratify the CPTPP.
“However, many CPTPP chapters were copied and pasted the leaked RCEP text by countries such as Japan and South Korea.
“Bantah strongly believes that the rakyat must know that the RCEP in its form and scope that is now being negotiated is a clear and present danger to Malaysia – to its people, its workers, its farmers, its economy, its small and medium-sized businesses, its environment, its policy space and thus its legislation, democracy, and sovereignty,” it said.
The coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said more markets for Malaysian exports are often used as the main reason for these agreements.
However, it added that Malaysia already has free trade agreements (FTAs) with all other RCEP countries and so only India is likely to reduce or remove more tariffs on Malaysian exports via RCEP.
This is because:
- Australia and New Zealand are already required to remove all their tariffs on ASEAN’s exports in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA by 2020, so ASEAN cannot hope to export more to Australia and New Zealand under RCEP;
- China, Japan and South Korea have already removed tariffs on 90.5-94.1 per cent of ASEAN’s exports to them under their existing FTAs and RCEP is likely to require the removal of 90-92 per cent of tariffs on exports (i.e. the same or less than their existing liberalisation); and,
- Therefore Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand have nothing to offer Malaysia in return for Malaysia agreeing to their demands for stronger intellectual property protection, services liberalisation, investment liberalisation and protection etc. These demands have wide-ranging negative impacts on Malaysia especially the B40 and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Therefore, the Government cannot rush to conclude the RCEP negotiations by 27 September. Information and meaningful public consultations must take place”.
RCEP negotiations started in 2012, with the final round kicking-off today (Sept 19).
The government has announced that negotiations will conclude by Sept 27.
The Ministries/agencies leading the RCEP negotiations include the International Trade and Industry Ministry (coordinating ministry), Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs ministry, Finance ministry, Bank Negara, and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Bantah, formerly known as Badan Bertindak Bantah TPPA, is a coalition of 61 NGOs and 10 coalitions who oppose unfair free trade agreements that would harm Malaysia.
The coalition is made-up off, Malaysian Trade Union Congress, Consumers Association of Penang, Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia, IDRIS Assoc., Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia, ISMA, JERIT, Majlis Perundingan Pertubuhan Islam Malaysia, Malaysian AIDS Council, MTAAG+, MTEM, Padi Rescue, Gerontologica
l Association of Malaysia (GEM), Persatuan Peduli Dhuafa dan Pengupayaan Masyarakat, Persatuan Sayang Sungai Petani, PeSAWAH, PSM, PT Foundation, Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), QIAM, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Teras Pengupayaan Melayu, UNGGAS Malaysia and MyWatch.