Santiago dares Tok Pa to debate on TPPA


PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has challenged Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Mustapa Mohamed to an open debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) next Monday, a day before the agreement is set to be debated in Parliament.

Speaking at a press conference at the DAP headquarters here today, Santiago said there were still many questions left unanswered and he felt that the best medium for Mustapa to answer them would be in a public debate.

“The briefings that MITI have been conducting, though appreciated, do not do justice to an agreement of this size,” he said. “At this point, the answers are coming straight from the government and we have to break that monotony.”

When asked about the platform for the debate, Santiago suggested that it be conducted at Mustapa’s ministry or hosted by FMT.

FMT CEO Shahrom Shahrudin responded immediately, saying the company would be honoured to host the debate.

“As a free and independent news agency,” he said, “FMT advocates the airing of both sides of the argument to the contentious issue of the TPPA, taking into consideration the interests of the public and business owners in the country who would be affected, whether negatively or positively, if or when the trade pact is signed.”

Apart from the debate, Santiago also challenged Mustapa to answer 15 questions on the TPPA, which he said he would post online over the next three days.

“I will post five questions a day, a total of 15 questions, in the next three days to the trade minister,” he said. “My Facebook friends and Twitter followers have also contributed to these questions.”

He posed the first five questions at today’s press conference.

The first question relates to Deputy United States Trade Representative Robert Hollyman’s statement that the market protection for drugs classified as biologics would be for eight years, and not five as indicated by Mustapa.

“How is it possible that countries negotiating with each other over a period of five years end up with two sets of market protection commitments? Did the Malaysian government raise the issue during the legal scrubbing process? How will Malaysia resolve this confusion? And will Malaysia change its commitment of five years to eight years if pressured by the US during the certification process?”

Santiago also pointed out that the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) chapter of the TPPA grants rights to Internet service providers to set up specific servers that store information on all Internet users.

“Similar provisions in an agreement between the United States and Europe were defeated in the European Parliament on concerns of loss of the right to privacy to the European people. My question to Tok Pa is, should a trade agreement allow for spying of its own citizens?”

The third question Santiago posed was whether the Malaysian government was prepared to pay huge amounts in damages if it were to lose court cases against foreign investors.

“It’s not a small amount of money. Is the government willing to pay and would a state government be forced to pay up to the federal government if the violation is committed in the state?”

Next, Santiago asked whether the Malaysian government agreed with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key that the prices of medicines would increase and patents would be extended under the TPPA.

“Would this phenomenon not violate the National Medicines Policy (2012), which stipulates affordable medicines for all?”

Santiago’s last question was regarding the SME Association of Malaysia’s statement that 195,000 small and medium enterprises in Malaysia would “close shop” after the TPPA.

“Will the government set up a rehabilitation fund to support these SMEs? How will the government help support workers in these companies who will lose their livelihoods?

“I hope the trade minister will provide answers.”