Bantah TPPA Puzzled Over Non-Consultation On Cost-Benefit Analysis

PETALING JAYA (Aug 27): Despite having insisted on a cost- benefit analysis (CBA) on the Trans-Pacific Partneship Agreement (TPPA), Bantah TPPA is “surprised” that the government has already began work on it without including members of the vocal group or non-partisan establishments.

“We had discussed this is in a meeting with (Datuk) Rebecca (Fatima Sta Maria) on Aug 16 and we had expressed our concerns, as we have been pushing for a more detailed study on various sectors of the TPPA,” said Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) chief executive officer Mohd Nizam Mahshar.

MTEM is among the prominent frontrunners opposing to the international trade talks under the Bantah TPPA movement, which comprises over 60 non-government organisations.

He told that Rebecca, who is the International Trade and Industries Ministry secretary-general, had concurred that in the event a CBA is commissioned, it should also be represented by members of Bantah.

This comes after International Trade and Industries Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that the ministry has already embarked on the CBA to look at extent of TPPA’s effect on national interest and bumiputera-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

According to The Malaysian Insider, Mustapa, at the ministry’ Hari Raya open house celebrations, divulged that reports on both the key issues will be completed in three months and will be made public.

Mohd Nizam said it was likely that the reports were being compiled by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) and Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (Teraju).

“These so-called experts, particularly from ISIS, have come out in support of the TPPA. I don’t think they are impartial.

“As for Teraju, MTEM has dealt with them in past and we know for a fact that they don’t have the capability to take a subject of this great an importance,” said Mohd Nizam.

“We are totally surprised that the study is being done without consulting us. Why not approach the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)? They are impartial.”

The issues being researched are among 70-odd chapters that face staunch opposition from conservative and liberal groups demanding that Putrajaya suspend the talks until an impartial and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and comparative advantage study are carried out and made public.

“Rebecca agreed with us when we said that we want in (CBA talks) if it is conducted because if the framework and assumption are incorrect, the output would also be distorted,” he said.

Mohd Nizam said that Bantah TPPA has given an outline of what has to be covered under the CBA, including setting terms of reference, scope of study, data used and assumptions proposed.

“It is also important to know the people who are being engaged are,” he said.

Bantah TPPA had organised a two-day roundtable which ended yesterday to outline the problems engulfing the negotiation which has been dealt with behind closed doors since 2010.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined in the chorus arguing that the trade agreement is to serve the interest of the United States, which is leading the 12 nations in the negotiations.

“In the agreement, American companies can be treated like Malaysians. So, their gigantic companies are given almost national status. Do you think with their (relative) economic and technology strength, that they will have the upper hand in marketing their products on Malaysia? But of course we don’t talk about this,” Mahathir was quoted saying.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim too added that the secrecy shrouding the talks would imply negative prospects and cast Malaysia as a lackey of the US.

Opponents argue that the TPPA is to exert sovereign control over financial markets, prices of pharmaceutical drugs especially for those suffering from cancer or AIDS, investor-state dispute settlements and the discreet negotiations which have been kept away from public scrutiny.