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Charles Santiago

Posted by : Admin Direktori Blog | Rabu, 1 Disember 2010 | Published in

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Charles Santiago


DAP wants FTAs open to Parliament checks

Posted: 01 Dec 2010 07:47 PM PST

Source: The Malaysian Insider

By Clara Chooi
December 01, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — A DAP MP urged the government today to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee on Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to allow legislators to scrutinise FTA negotiations.Klang MP Charles Santiago mooted the proposal today and pointed out that at present, the Malaysian Parliament was a mere "rubber stamp" as it would be forced to accept all negotiations without any checks and balances.

"Parliament has no avenue to discuss, debate or comment on FTAs which have critical significance [for] sovereignty, development and public policy… issues that have major ramifications to the lives of Malaysians," Charles said in a press conference in Parliament today.

The trained economist claimed that at present, FTA negotiations were conducted in a "non-transparent" manner and without an avenue to discuss on the agreements in Parliament, national laws would eventually be amended to reflect the commitments made at the negotiations.

"Parliament will have no choice but to accept the decisions. It has been reduced to the role of a rubber stamp. It has no choice and clearly this shows that the executive arm of the government is not accountable to Parliament," he said.

Charles added that it was timely for the formation of a Parliamentary Select Committee to allow debates on FTAs as the Malaysian government was presently set to begin negotiations on two critical FTAs with economic powers, the European Union and the US, along with eight other nations.

"The negotiations with the US and the other eight nations will take place in New Zealand from December 6 to 10 in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA," he pointed out.

The countries involved in the negotiations include Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Vietmnam, Chile and Peru.

"This will be a second effort on the part of Malaysia to clinch an FTA deal with both the EU and the US.

"This entails negotiations on trade, services and investments, including intellectual property rights, government procurement and competition," he said.

Charles explained that FTA agreements gave rights to investors to legally challenge governments before international tribunals established at the World Bank or the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

This, he added, would ultimately undermine the sovereignty of the nations involved.

"Liberalisation of the government procurement sector, once considered off-limits to foreign companies is a major departure in the country's social and development policy," he argued.

Furthermore, said Charles, FTAs were not just about the exchange of goods and services but would also have far-reaching implications on public policies, including health, the environment and the growth of small and medium industries.

"As a result, they would have implications for the people, business and special interest groups," he said.

Unlike Malaysia, said Charles, Asean countries like Thailand and Philippines required parliamentary scrutiny and endorsement before their governments formally signed on to FTAs.

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Establish a Parliamentary Select Committee on Free Trade Agreements to Protect Public Interests.

Posted: 01 Dec 2010 12:15 AM PST

The Malaysian government is set to begin negotiations on two critical free trade agreements (FTA) with economic powers, the European Union and United States (and eight other nations).

 The first round of negotiations with the European Union will take place on 6th-7th December, 2010 in Brussels.

The negotiations with the USA (and eight other nations) will take place in New Zealand from 6th -10th December 2010 in the context of Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA (TPP).

The countries involved in the TPP negotiations include Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru.   The TPP is an idea mooted by the US and thus replaces the country's bilateral approach.

This will be a second effort on the part of Malaysia to clinch an FTA deal with both the EU and USA.

Malaysia, EU, and the USA have committed themselves to negotiate a comprehensive and ambitious agreement.

This entails negotiations on trade, services, and investments, including intellectual property rights, government procurement, and competition.

FTA agreements, in the context of Investor-to-state dispute mechanism, gives rights to investors to legally challenge governments before international tribunals established at the World Bank or International Court of Arbitration in Paris. This undermines sovereignty of nations.

Liberalisation of the government procurement sector, once considered off-limits to foreign companies is a major departure in the country's social and development policy.

These FTAs are not just about exchange of goods and services (i.e. trade) but have far reaching implications on the sovereignty of the nation, development and public policy, including public health,  environment and growth of small and medium industries .

And as a result have implications for people, business, and special interest groups.

Asean countries such as Thailand and the Philippines require parliamentary scrutiny and endorsement before respective governments formally sign on to FTA agreements.  

Furthermore, these meetings are held in public and involve testimony of experts, civil society groups, academics and special interest groups in order to shed light on these agreements.

However, in Malaysia parliament has no avenue to discuss debate or comment on FTAs which have critical significance on sovereignty, development and public policy, issues that have major ramification to the lives of Malaysians’.

 FTA negotiations are conducted in a non-transparent manner. Once these agreements are concluded, national laws are amended to reflect the commitments made at the negotiations. 

Parliament will have no choice but to accept the decisions. 

Parliament is thus reduced to the role of a rubber stamp.   It has no choice but to accept the decisions of the negotiations.  Clearly, the executive is not accountable to parliament.

 Also, parliament will not be able to provide the necessary oversight and an effective check and balance mechanism in protecting and promoting public interests.

It will be a shame if leaked documents are the basis of information and debate, when governments have responsibility to ensure transparency, good governance and right to information.

As such, the FTAs must have a parliamentary oversight mechanism in place and more importantly, sovereignty over legislations. For this reason, the Malaysian parliament needs to establish a parliamentary select committee on FTAs.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang.


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