FTA: Malaysian government should walk away

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This is another form of neo-colonialism which I dearly despise since 2 years ago. The struggle to end this negotiation is still in the pipeline. Sadly not many of the political parties the likes of PAS, DAP and Keadilan are serious enough to engage in this matter. Only few NGOs that are being spearheaded by Jerit, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and CAP putting this agenda as one of the serious cases to fight against. Remember, this is not about narrow minded political issues but a matter of this nation survival. I bet Pak Lah and co. are clueless about the impact and the one who going to taste this is my generation ( including Khairi’s newborn son) in the future! I will not let MITI sell off our country so cheaply to the giant capitalist who can never be trusted! Check out this press statement made by S.M Idris, president of Consumer Assoc. of Penang:

On Jan 14, the US and Malaysia resumed formal negotiations on the proposed Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after talks were deadlocked early last year over 58 contentious issues.

Among the contentious issues were government procurement and financial services. Policy space on these issues is important for Malaysia’s development. Government procurement is a valuable macro-economic development tool that can help address socio-economic imbalances. And in light of the Asian financial crisis, Malaysia has been very careful in the sequencing and timing of financial services liberalisation, making decisions at its own pace and in national interests.

A news report quoted US ambassador to Malaysia James R Keith as saying: ‘A bottom line for us [the US] on government procurement is transparent and reciprocal market access … We have to have that. If we don’t have that, then it would become a deal-stopper’. Moreover, Keith has admitted that the US is seeking ‘substantial market access’ in areas including financial services.

Previously, the government has made assurances that it will not sacrifice our national interests in order to forge a deal with the US. International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz has said that the government would not be moved on its bumiputera policies nor on liberalising the country’s financial services sector.

Unless the government has reneged on its promises, it appears that the US and Malaysia are irreconcilably at odds on fundamental issues. Given this, why is Malaysia even persisting in negotiating with the US?

The proposed FTA will have far-reaching impacts on the economic and social well-being of Malaysians and we are likely to emerge as a net loser. Up till today, despite numerous requests, no comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the FTA has been made available to the public.

Instead, negotiations have not been transparent and there has been little consultation with the public. In fact, the level of transparency has even decreased. There has not been any feedback on whether the 58 contentious issues have been resolved or whether any concessions were made by the Malaysian government in order to reach an agreement.

The government appears to be prepared to give in to US demands on intellectual property rights that will harm consumers, patients in need of medicines and the local industry including generic medicine manufacturers. Even if the FTA negotiations were to fail, the US will continue to press for unilateral changes in Malaysia’s intellectual property laws knowing already what the government is willing to give up in spite of public objections.

We strongly reiterate our deep disappointment at the government’s blatant disregard for the nation’s long-term interests. The right thing for the government to do is to walk away from these negotiations.

The writer is president, Consumers Association of Penang.

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