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Cabinet to carve out tobacco from TPP

The Malaysian government is expected to carve out tobacco from the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in a soon to be convened special Cabinet meeting, according to an official from the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC).

MCTC president Dr Molly Cheah said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) had apparently decided to advise the Malaysian government to abandon the talks on tobacco, in order to avoid possible legal actions from some quarters.

“The MITI has realised that Malaysia, a signatory of the World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control, can be sued up and down on this if it were to abide to the tobacco liberalisation under the TPP,” she told The Malaysian Reserve at the sidelines of the Bantah TPP press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

She also said her organisation had received confirmation that Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam was not in favour of tobacco being liberalised, thus the possible Cabinet decision to go against tobacco within the TPP framework.

Listing what they called redlines or non-negotiable chapters and clauses, the Bantah TPP group campaigning against the controversial trade deal said it wanted a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to verify the deal.

“The TPP texts are to be examined, scrutinised and assessed by a PSC to verify the deal is indeed in the Malaysian people’s favour and interests,” said Dr Cheah. She said Bantah TPP wanted the government to abandon the idea of the Parliamentary Caucus and to instead launch a proper PSC to look into the benefits of the TPP, more so since the decisions on the TPP were at the executive level where the Parliament has little powers to interfere.

A PSC will have more powers and will be able to influence the government’s decision on the TPP, Party Keadilaan Rakyat VP Nurul Izzah Anwar told The Malaysian Reserve in an earlier interview.

Among other major issues the group raised was the threats to land ownership, including Malay reserve land, the environment, tobacco, investors free and equitable treatment.

The issue of investor freedom will bind the country and expose Malaysia to risk of being sued in the international courts, Malay Economic Action Council CEO Mohd Nizam Mashar told reporters.

“Investor free and equitable treatment is a sensitive issue that concerns changes in local and national laws,” he said.

Mohd Nizam said any changes in laws affecting the interest of foreign investors would risk exposing the country to international lawsuits, thus making it practically impossible for future laws to be passed.

The liberalisation of goods and services and investment clauses, Bantah TPP coordinators said, seemed to be confirmed since these would not be part of the exceptions allowed under the free trade agreement.

“There are no indications that the Malaysian government is succeeding in getting these issues to be carved out or added in the exceptions,” Mohd Nizam said.

The issue of non-tariff barrier is a tough call since there are indications Malaysian products will not get easy and free access to the US market but will expose Malaysia to the entry of genetically modified organisms food and risks of mad-cow disease and so on.

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