‘Fu­ture free trade deals must not im­pair na­tion’s pol­icy space’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - MEDIA & MARKETING - BY EVA YEONG

PETALING JAYA: The likely demise of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) gives Malaysia an op­por­tu­nity to en­sure that any free trade agree­ment in the fu­ture does not im­pair the coun­try’s pol­icy space, said Sreenevasan Ad­vo­cates & So­lic­i­tors con­sul­tant, Gurdial Singh Nijar.

“We rushed into sign­ing the TPP with­out look­ing care­fully of the con­se­quences – in par­tic­u­lar whether or not the US Congress would ap­prove it and the im­pact of the US elec­tions, as well as the fact that any change of our laws will have to be ap­proved by the US Congress and for it to de­ter­mine whether or not we had com­plied with the TPP as they saw it. This is a blight on our sovereignty,” he told Sun­Biz in an email in­ter­view.

The le­gal con­sul­tant, who is a former law pro­fes­sor, said the In­vestor State Dis­pute Set­tle­ment (ISDS) pro­vi­sions in the trade deal gave un­due power to for­eign cor­po­ra­tions to sue the govern­ment if their in­vest­ments were af­fected by any changes that the govern­ment may wish to in­tro­duce.

These changes could in­clude matters such as en­vi­ron­ment and health, made to pro­tect the cit­i­zens’ in­ter­ests.

“De­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped coun­tries have been sued un­der sim­i­lar pro­vi­sions for bil­lions of dol­lars in pro­jected prof­its,” he said.

Prior to the sign­ing of the 12-na­tion TPP agree­ment on Feb 4, 2016, Gurdial and other par­ties, in­clud­ing Ban­tah TPPA, had high­lighted the po­ten­tial is­sues re­lated to ISDS pro­vi­sions.

Is­sues sur­round­ing ISDS had also be­come quite prom­i­nent due to the in­ter­na­tional case be­tween to­bacco com­pany Philip Mor­ris and the Aus­tralian govern­ment whereby the com­pany brought an in­vest­ment dis­pute against the govern­ment over its plan for pack­ag­ing leg­is­la­tion for to­bacco.

“As to the im­pact on our econ­omy – the jury is still out – although es­tab­lished econ­o­mists (such as No­bel lau­re­ates and former UN eco­nomic ad­vis­ers) have ad­vised that the TPP will not bring the pro­jected eco­nomic and other ben­e­fits,” said Gurdial.

“This is a salu­tary les­son not to be in­volved in se­cret ne­go­ti­a­tions and to be open and trans­par­ent, and en­gage the cit­i­zenry in matters that will af­fect them be­yond the po­lit­i­cal ten­ure of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers,” he added.

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