Employers’ group joins chorus against govt ratifying trade pact

The Malaysian Employers Federation says the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will not benefit local trade.

PETALING JAYA: An employers’ group has joined the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) in voicing its disapproval towards Putrajaya ratifying the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said it was not consulted on the CPTPP despite being a major stakeholder, adding that the trade pact went against national interest.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said the CPTPP threatened Malaysia’s sovereignty by way of imposing foreign economic models and labour standards.

He said Malaysian firms would not be the main benefactors of ratifying the agreement, but major multinational companies who have greater access to government procurement and the local market.

“These multinational companies will also be given the rights to take the government to a special court if they feel that the government has not adhered to the terms of the CPTPP.

“And they may claim compensation from the government, which may amount to hundreds of millions of ringgit.

“There are also serious concerns with regards to intellectual property rights and the status of state-owned enterprises (GLCs),” he told FMT.

Shamsuddin said there were existing bilateral trade agreements with other countries which were also negotiating the CPTPP, with more favourable terms on free trade and investments for Malaysia.

“MEF is of the view that Malaysia should not ratify the CPTPP. Even though Malaysia had signed the CPTPP, it is at liberty not to ratify the pact,” he said.

Similarly, he said, the MEF was not consulted during negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and on Putrajaya’s commitment to the Labour Consistency Plan with the US in 2015.

“These negotiations had in fact been shrouded in secrecy without any transparency or public disclosure on the cost-benefit analyses of the TPPA and CPTPP,” he said.

MTUC had earlier urged Putrajaya against ratifying the pact, which it said threatened workers’ rights and would put jobs at risk.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the CTPP gives member countries leeway to remove legislation on workers’ rights and welfare, under the pretence of reducing tariff barriers and championing free trade.

“Senior Minister for Economy Mohamed Azmin Ali has not presented a convincing case that would suggest it is in the interests of our workers, our economy and our society to join the CPTPP,” he said.

Azmin and former finance minister Lim Guan Eng had been engaged in an argument in the Dewan Rakyat recently over the pact, after the former claimed the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had agreed to ratify it.

Lim objected, saying the PH Cabinet had not agreed to the ratification as “we did not want foreigners to interfere” in Malaysia’s trade policies. This was followed by a heated argument between the two.