October 22, 2015

How the TPP Could Trouble Malaysia

How the TPP Could Trouble Malaysia

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement could cause more harm than good to Malaysia. Photo Credit: Truthout.org via Flickr

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement – an enormous ‘free-trade’ agreement between Malaysia, the United States, Australia and numerous other countries – is steadily marching towards ratification.  Billed as a catalyst of international trade and booster of economies, the multinational agreement is extremely controversial as it includes many laws that would heavily favor large corporations while wreaking havoc on the common employee, public health and the natural environment.

Some of these laws would have especially negative effects on Malaysia.  For example, the TPP would cement what’s called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.  The provision allows foreign investors (businesses and corporations, etc.) to sue governments who have signed the TPP if those governments act in a way that harms their interests.

Many a Malaysian social and environmental health program could ‘harm the interests’ of a foreign corporation.  Environmental regulations, requirements to uphold reasonable wage or employment standards, or requests by the Malaysian government for a foreign corporation to, say, not build a coal factory on the banks of a river could be taken to court upon finalization of the TPP.  The ISDS provision is in thousands of treaties around the world, and has resulted in many examples of corporations suing governments for well-intentioned and reasonable requests.

Intellectual Property rules in the TPP would also lengthen and strengthen corporate patents on medical innovations, keeping medicine prices higher for longer.  This could put vital medicines out of financial reach for those in need.

The agreement could also make it much harder for Malaysia to give domestic businesses a chance against corporations, make it difficult for Malaysia’s government-linked companies to play a big role in the economy, and in many ways cause changes that would damage the way Malaysia’s economy works.

Though officially agreed upon by all 12 countries involved, the TPP still has to be approved by various national governments.  The increased trade it could bring is awaited eagerly by some, but the potentially debilitating power consolidation and new rules it could bring are dreaded by others.

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