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Don’t surrender power to big firms, Putrajaya told

 | June 26, 2012

DAP’s Charles Santiago warns the government against signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s sovereignty will be at stake if the government signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a free trade pact aimed at liberalising Asia-Pacific economies.

This warning came today from the MP for Klang, DAP’s Charles Santiago.

Leaked documents show an “investment rule” that empowers multinational companies to sue governments over domestic health regulations and prevent the promotion of local manufacturing, according to Santiago.

This would essentially deprive the government of the right to make health policies and give power to big companies, he said.

“If a health policy infringes on a company’s profitability, the company can bring the government to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.”

This might result in the Malaysian government having to pay millions of ringgit in fines, he added.

He cited a case in which cigarette giant Philip Morris is suing the Uruguayan government over its anti-smoking campaign, claiming that it violates an international treaty.

“If we sign this, then it is as if the Malaysian government is going to war with its hands tied behind its back.”

Santiago said the PTTA would also make medicines more expensive because it would reduce access to generic drugs.

“We oppose the provisions which would burden the diseased, increase morbidity, increase medical tourism to countries where medicine would be cheaper and, economy wise, increase productivity losses,” he said.

“Many conditions depend on generic medicines, such as cancer, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.

“Basically, if you are hit with HIV, then you are doomed to death.”

New investments

Santiago urged the government to “wake up” and not be so “hell bent” on signing the agreement in the hope that it would attract new investments.

“Studies upon studies have shown that free trade agreements do not bring in investments,” he said. “Instead, it is structures and human capital that attract investors.”

Fifa Rahman, the Southeast Asia rapporteur for Harm Reduction International, also spoke at today’s press conference.

She said the TPPA would allow companies to acquire unnecessary patents to the detriment of the sick.

“Just an example, Panadol can just add sugar and it can be patented and expensive,” she said.

“Then you have the patenting of surgical methods. If there is a new way of taking out your tumour, you go to a government clinic and it says it can’t do this type of surgery because it does not have the patent.”

She said the TPPA would also put in place border controls that could lead to unjustified seizures of generic medicines.

Santiago said several NGOs were asking Malaysia to stop the negotiations and forget about signing the agreement.

There have been 13 rounds of talks so far and, according to Santiago, discussions were “speeding up”.

Last week, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned that the TPPA was “a way for the United States to access contracts for government procurements and continue its hegemony in the Asia Pacific region”.

Santiago said: “Unfortunately, we have to agree with Mahathir on this one.”


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