Reject ‘rebranded’ TPPA, Pakatan MPs tell Putrajaya

Jerry Choong
Representatives of members of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal wave as they pose for an official picture after the signing agreement ceremony in Santiago, Chile March 8, 2018. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Three Pakatan Harapan lawmakers pressed Putrajaya to reject signing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), insisting the deal was a repackaging of another controversial free trade deal.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Subang MP Wong Chen, and Klang MP Charles Santiago expressed concern over provisions in the CPTPP that they said were detrimental to low-income groups and affordable healthcare here.

“The CPTPP’s required enforcement of patents especially for medicines could see the cost of life-saving medicines skyrocket,” they said in a joint statement.

The MPs said that the sharp increase in medicine prices would be caused by the CPTPP’s patent protection clauses which are meant to protect the interest of multinational pharmaceutical corporations, but at the same time it would also prevent a more affordable generic medicine from entering the market.

“How will the government ensure that the poor continue to have access to affordable medicine as it promised in its National Medicines Policy?” they questioned.

One of the CPTPP’s provisions enables such corporations to use the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism and potentially sue the governments of sovereign states on the grounds that providing continuous access is damaging to its profits.

“The settlement allows foreign investors to bypass a country’s laws and challenge its government at arbitration tribunals, where they can demand huge compensation fees which will be borne by taxpayers,

“No government would want to go through the settlement, given its unpredictability and the potential stranglehold multinational corporations can wield over elected parliaments,” said the MPs.

The mechanism also means corporations can claim that improving labour standards and practices are also detrimental to their investment value, which the MPs said runs contrary to PH’s efforts in that direction.

“So there is nothing progressive about the CPTPP except literally in the name,” they said.

The CPTTP arose when former member nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership sought to salvage the deal after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country in January last year.