MP SPEAKS Just hours ago, at 9am in Atlanta, United States, the 12 participating nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) made a live announcement concluding the highly-anticipated ‘trade agreement for the 21st century’.
The agreement and the text have been finalised and concluded, but still shrouded in secrecy despite our International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed’s absence at the press conference. Malaysia was represented by its chief negotiator, J Jayasiri.
Mustapa’s absence raised a red flag as to how an important trade negotiation is being handled by the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) and the government. Our minister rightly should attend the process until the very end.
It bears reminding that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak made a promise at the Apec Summit in Bali in October 2013 that the TPPA would be presented in Parliament.
Miti has also told the Dewan Negara that the government would ensure that the nation's and the people's interests are not compromised by the ‘21st century trade pact’ - which certainly encompasses many areas, other than trade alone.
Furthermore, the term 21st century should denote a transparent environment - where the public, Parliament and civil society in general should be given access to the treaty’s official text - not denied as it is.
As such, for the past two years and more, my colleagues and I have been seriously following and engaged in the TPPA negotiations. We persistently pushed the government for greater transparency and proper disclosure with regard to the content of the negotiations.
On the Sept 25, 2013, I had pushed for a select committee on the TPP through a question in Parliament. The government then moved to form the TPPA Caucus, of which I am member.
Granted, there have been engagements made with Miti ITI, and by extension, US Trade Representative Michael Froman.
Full text 30 days after deal agreed
However, we remain very much in the dark about the demands made to ensure Malaysia’s interest are left intact in the final negotiated text. In sum, there’s much to ponder as none of us representing the Opposition Members of Parliament in the caucus have had access to the actual negotiating texts.
According to the fast track regulations, the full TPPA text will be released in 30 days after the deal has been agreed. President Obama will allow the Congress 90 days after the conclusion of the deal for deliberation on its details before being able to sign this agreement.
The negotiations have been concluded and there will be no more changes as to the content of this agreement.
We must, together with active members from civil society, fully scrutinise the final text of the TPPA.
We must ensure that Prime Minister Najib is held responsible and answerable to the promises he and his government have made in the treaty.
We must ensure that the text is fully disclosed and members of the August House are provided sufficient time to scrutinise and deliberate the treaty.
If the US Congress is given 90 days; Malaysia should not be left behind in strengthening parliamentary democracy through proper scrutiny of trade agreements - especially one that is expected to run into more than hundreds of pages; involves 12 nations and affects Malaysia in a multitude of areas other than just trade.
Malaysia must stand to benefit and Malaysians must be protected as the treaty traverses the perilous concerns ranging from the prices of medicines, steep protection of intellectual property, status of our state-owned enterprises (Khazanah, Petronas, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, etc), the actual stranglehold of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism on our judiciary, streamlined labour rights, and the impact of foreign businesses on existing small- and medium-sized enterprises, to name a few.
The fight to ensure that the TPPA was negotiated in the best interests of the rakyat will not end until it is signed and we will ensure that we will be there until the very end.
NURUL IZZAH ANWAR is the MP for Lemban Pantai and a TPPA Caucus Member.