FTAs are dead – but US, EU won’t rest in peace

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Both the United States and its trade rival, the European Union (EU), have been forced to modify their strategy in South-east Asia in pursuit of their ‘free trade’ and ‘liberalisation’ agenda.

The Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is effectively dead; negotiations had gone nowhere after eight rounds of talks. The Malaysian side was afraid of opening up access to government procurement contracts mainly awarded to bumiputera firms. The Americans, under the Obama administration, were worried that free trade would result in an influx of cheap goods into their country while American jobs are lost to low-wage countries.

We should be saying “rest in peace” to the FTA – but unfortunately, there’s no rest for the greedy. Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as the US modifies its ‘free trade’ strategy. The US is now involved in negotiations with Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Vietnam, Chile, Singapore and Peru under the TPP banner. The Americans want the TPP to grow into a regional FTA covering the 21 Apec countries. The first round of TPP talks was held in March in Australia.

Malaysia, through its ministry of international trade and industry (Miti), is interested in “exploring” the TPP but the same concerns remain: it would involve prising opening the services sector and government procurement.

Similarly, the Asean-EU FTA is all but dead. The EU shelved FTA talks with Asean after it found that conditions were “not conducive”.

But like the US, the EU has not been idle as they eye the huge South-east Asian market. Desperate to pursue its ‘free trade” agenda and prise open the Asean market, the EU is now negotiating bilateral FTAs with individual Asean nations. (The same old divide-and-rule strategy of the colonials.) Negotiations for a Malaysia-EU FTA began in March with a second round scheduled for June.

The Malaysian government should tread very cautiously and realise the full implications of what it is getting the country into with all these so-called ‘free trade’ talks. An analogy would be the English Premier League: the playing field may be “level” and the same rules apply to all. But it is the clubs with the most money that dominate the league year in and year out and seize the greatest prizes (and draw in the most television revenue) while the poorer clubs lose their best young players and coaches.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian public is kept in the dark about what’s going on. Why aren’t the implications of these trade talks regularly highlighted and debated in the media? What would they mean for small- and medium-scale businesses in Malaysia? What would they mean for farmers and workers? Is this part of a larger scheme to extend the neo-liberal agenda that favours Big Business throughout the Asean region?

We are kept in the dark.

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telur dua

What do we peasants know even if they tell us? Rape and plunder are for the ‘experts.’

Banzai!

GohBA

Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan & Switzerland are examples of countries/places where lots of hard work & intelligence brought about development & prosperity in a harsh terrain deprived of natural resources.

Malaysia & Indonesia are examples of countries gifted with abundant natural resources, only to be wasted through a corrupt, lazy & greedy regime.

AJ

Liberalisation means doom for the Malaysian Industries i.e. the manufacturing and services sector. Heck, as it is the currency rate favours the big boys. More so, when they can purchase equity up to 70% in most sectors, which they will eventually control. Our say will diminish over time. This is the only way thay can control the economy of most countries in their favour. In time to come, we will become slaves to the bigger nations.They dictate, we produce. THE US PRINTS ITS OWN CURRENCY WITHOUT LEGITIMATE BACKING.

naruto

a racist county like Malaysia with mainly self-interest politicians in the ruling government would only hinder any successful talks and/or negotiations. Corruptions among their members breed more corruptions. Big crony conglomerates in cohort with these corrupted ruling government and their officials and cronies would want no news and critical information to reach the ears of competitors, opposition parties, its citizens and people on the streets. The less informed the people are, the more will they be able to continue to plan and act their dirty tricks behind the curtains. Sad for any Malaysian, and a country that’s further drifting behind… Read more »

Dr. Amrit Sekhon

Nothing by the BN/UMNO government is ever highlighted, in the planning and implementing stage but,,, will only be drummed down the throat of Malaysians,, after the peice of cake has been distributed. Followed by these will be the Media,,,, which will be drumming news of Bumiputra Acheivements,,, in the Financial Economic Cake of Malaysia. This raises a very pertinant question. Who are these Bumiputras,,media makes reference to? OBVIOUSLY UMNO CRONIES AND THEIR TAIL WAGGING COALITION PARTIES. As for he public we just live by reading the news only, by buying the newspapers, watching UMNO/BNs TV channels and other miserable means… Read more »

karma

The US is getting smart. Malaysia will lose. We neeed better leaders to run the country. Leaders like those who have made Singapore successful or Taiwan prosperous.

No spaghetti bowls please

Actually ‘on paper’ the Malaysian services and government procurement markets are already relatively open – the services market because we are signatories to the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and government procurement ‘technically’ through open bidding (for the most part). Whether or not bids are awarded on a fair basis is another question, which, for better or ill, the FTA wouldn’t have been able to govern anyway. Ironic that the US wants Malaysia to open up its government procurement market, but has been narrowing theirs through the ‘Buy America’ provisions, etc. And the USD200b procurement market is… Read more »