Wan Saiful: TPPA critics driven by blind ideology, not facts

TPPA

KUALA LUMPUR: Critics are being selective in their arguments of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and are driven by blind ideology, not facts, said Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

He took aim at Klang MP Charles Santiago and economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram for their criticisms of the TPPA, saying that both focused too much on vested interests and business owners instead of “common consumers.”

“Do we want to protect the vested interests (of those) who are worried about competition, or do we want to champion the welfare of poorer consumers who are struggling to cope with the rising costs of living?” he asked.

Santiago had said that the trade pact’s push for stronger provisions on intellectual property rights would increase the price of medicine. He cited the signing of the free trade agreement between Jordan and the United States in 2000, and pointed out that it drove the price of medicine in Jordan up by 20 per cent and wiped out the generic drug industry there.

Wan Saiful however said Santiago was being selective in his criticism and explained: “Since signing the FTA, there were 78 new innovative product launches in Jordan, more than doubling the rate of launches of innovative drugs, thus helping to facilitate Jordanian consumers’ access to medicines.”

Wan Saiful’s comments were published in his column today in The Star entitled “Prioritise consumers in TPPA deal.”

“Local Jordanian companies such as Jordan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company and Triumpharma actually had more new products under the FTA,” Wan Saiful said.

Jomo, on the other hand, had criticised the computable general equilibrium (CGE) model used by several researchers to project the TPPA’s benefits.

He said that he preferred the United Nations Global Policy Model (GPM), that offered more realistic macroeconomic projections and took into consideration changes in employment and inequality and their impacts on economic growth.

“Jomo is…taking the debate to a most academic level. If we were to use Jomo’s approach, then anyone with some knowledge of economic modelling could also argue that Jomo’s GPM is flawed too,” said Wan Saiful.

“Many researchers, including those at the UN, use the CGE model that Jomo dislikes. In this case Jomo chooses one model and it allows him to highlight the points he wants to highlight.”

Wan Saiful said that the GPM was a macro model that did not include information at the sector level, or data on tariffs.

“It assumes that international trade is only good if exports expand more than imports, which is of course a flawed assumption because in reality both imports and exports are good,” he commented.

“If I want to sound cleverer than most, I would add that the GPM is further weakened because it cannot calculate the tariff equivalent of a reduction in trade costs and its impact on international trade,” Wan Saiful argued, adding that as researchers, facts were important.

“We cannot operate like ideological activists who announced two years before seeing the real TPPA text that they oppose it. I have written before that that is a sign you are driven by blind ideology and not facts.”