– Liew Chin Tong
The Malaysian Insider
26 January 2016
I have written to the Dewan Rakyat secretary Datuk Roosme, with copies to Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin and DAP whip Loke Siew Fook, on my medical leave from the January 26 and 27 sitting.
I am still recovering from Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of the facial nerves.
If I were present, I would have voted against the TPPA, alongside with other DAP and Pakatan Harapan MPs.
I probably would ask for a chance to speak against the deal too.
Much as I regretted my absence at this critical vote, I am comforted by the fact that DAP does have very strong and well-informed speakers for the debate.
Charles Santiago has been a long-time opponent to unfair trade deals.
I just read Dr Ong Kian Ming’s presentation on the TPPA, which he presented to the DAP retreat on January 16 and 17. I am very impressed by the comprehensiveness and his grasp of the subject matter.
I suspect he is one of the very few inside and outside Parliament who have read all the relevant documents.
A woman entrepreneur came to me at the clinic where I undergo acupuncture treatment. She said she was utterly confused about the TPPA.
And that’s the whole trouble. There isn’t genuine and candid debate.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants to get it passed because it maintains his standing in the eyes of the US while also extracting all sorts of benefits and deals with China, such as the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) power and land deals.
US President Barack Obama wants to get it done as such deals help US industries to export.
International Trade and Industries Minister Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed’s argument that the TPPA will generate higher investment is fictional.
First, Malaysia’s challenge is not the lack of FDI. Malaysian institutions have so much funds that allow them to participate in property speculations in London or Australia. Something is very wrong here.
The Malaysian private sector has also funds and resources to invest. What they lack is confidence in the future of the Malaysian economy.
Second, the real challenge for the Malaysian economy is to upgrade skills, productivity and wages.
There is no point to attract FDIs that hire only unskilled foreign labour.
The TPPA is not going to help Malaysia to end the low wage, low skill, low productivity vicious cycle.
And the argument that the GDP will grow through the TPPA is also not true.
Quality growth can only come when Malaysia is competing against Korea for technologies and not competing with Vietnam or Indonesia for cheap labour.
Najib’s argument that if we don’t sign on to the TPPA, Vietnam or others will reap the benefits or fill the vacuum just shows that he doesn’t understand economics.
Yes, some sectors may benefit from the TPPA: textiles, automotive, E&E.
Tell me where our textile industry is. My answer is: a tiny presence in Batu Pahat with the rest of them owned by Malaysians, situated in Vietnam.
In other words, there is hardly any textile industry in Malaysia, anyway.
How about automotive? Worldwide the automotive industry is a sunset industry.
With climate change a serious challenge and with the Paris Agreement slowly coming into implementation, car industry won’t go too far.
And, you think suddenly US consumers would turn to Proton as their car of choice?
The E&E sector may benefit from the deal.
But again, with or without the TPPA, if the E&E sector is competing with Korea and not Vietnam or Indonesia, it really doesn’t matter if you sign on to the TPPA or not.
Some argue that the TPPA promotes transparency domestically.
One must understand the nature of trade deals.
Trade deals are negotiated by governments, each of them has their constituents and lobbyists to deal with.
The TPPA is a wish list of US lobbyists/ corporations plus a wish list of those governments involved.
The jargon is “carve-outs”. There is nothing in a trade deal that promotes “free” trade.
Never expect a foreign trade deal to bring transparency.
I won’t go into the question of cost to Malaysia as many have written excellent analysis on medical cost, governments being sued by corporations, etc.
I urge all to vote against the TPPA. – January 26, 2016.
* Liew Chin Tong is DAP political education director and Kluang MP.