Trans-Pacific Partnership Takeover

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nile Bowie, Contributor
Activist Post

To commemorate Malaysia’s 55th Independence Day, Prime Minister Najib Razak published an article highlighting the nation’s various accomplishments, principally that while much of world’s economies are “either flat or falling,” Malaysia is steadily delivering high figures of economic growth. [1]

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, although perceived by the middle class to be unpopular, has overseen consistent economic development and has worked to raise incomes and provide consumer affordability. Despite these achievements, the upper echelons of Malaysia’s ruling coalition have seemingly endorsed a controversial international trade agreement that will have enormous impacts on domestic consumers and will even undermine the government’s own ability to issue legislation.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free-trade agreement led by the United States in partnership with Asia-Pacific nations like Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and others. If the agreement is accepted by all participatory nations and successfully passed, signatory countries must conform to a rigid set of legal regulations, including strict intellectual property protections, authored by representatives of big foreign corporations.

While critics of the agreement call it “a stealth attack on democratic governance,” leading members of the US Senate and Congress have expressed outrage over the TPP primarily due to the climate of secrecy surrounding the negotiations. Six hundred US corporate advisors have negotiated the TPP, and the proposed draft text has not been made available to the public, the press or policymakers.

US Senator Ron Wyden, the Chair of the Congressional Committee with jurisdiction over TPP, was even denied access to the negotiation texts. [2] In Malaysia, members of parliament such as Charles Santiago have voiced frustrations over Putrajaya’s unwillingness to release any information regarding the agreement. [3] Based on information contained in two leaked chapters of the TPP agreement, the partnership aims to abolish the accountability of foreign corporations to the governments of countries with which they trade by introducing a myriad of new corporate rights and privileges. The proposed agreement would make signatory governments accountable to foreign corporations for costs imposed by national laws and regulations, including health, safety and environmental regulations, mandating that corporations receive compensation taken directly from domestic taxpayers and public funds.

Advocacy website Public Citizen has confirmed the authenticity of a leaked chapter of the TPP titled, “Investment,” and has issued a detailed analysis of the text. In addition to the leaked “Intellectual Property Rights” chapter, it can be concluded that the agreement illustrates the major goal of US multinational corporations to impose extreme foreign investor privileges and rights on developing countries by giving individual corporations and investors equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government. NGOs such as the Malaysian AIDS Council and the Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia have voiced their concern over the TPP’s restrictive intellectual property laws, which allow American drug companies to secure long-term monopolies on pharmaceutical products by preventing the production of generic drugs, thus increasing the price of medicine. [4] The United States is demanding aggressive intellectual property provisions that extend existing patents on medicines for up to 10 years in addition to the current requirement of 20 years. Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has spoken out against the TPP, arguing that such an agreement would make healthcare less affordable to the public: