Be wary before signing RCEP, Putrajaya told

Be wary before signing RCEP, Putrajaya told

KUALA LUMPUR:  Bantah, a coalition of 61 NGOs and 10 coalitions, has called upon the government to be wary of what they would be signing up for in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) final trade negotiations, which is due tomorrow.

“This is a dangerous free trade agreement (FTA) Malaysia must not rush into signing the RCEP,” said Bantah representative Azlan Awang.

He said this along with several others during a press conference held at National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) office today.

RCEP is made up of 10 Asean countries with Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The negotiations started way back in 2012 itself.

Azlan said that Malaysia already has direct trade relations with many nations and thus, the government need not rush into signing any new agreements for now.

“Malaysia already has direct trade relations through free trade agreements or through Asean. Of the RCEP countries, Malaysia has 90% access in all countries, except India that stands at 79%,” said Azlan.

He further pointed out that Malaysia has not signed only three free trade agreements (FTA); Malaysia USA FTA, Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and RCEP.

On what is troubling the group, Azlan said the coalition is worried as the RCEP is also using the same template as of The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.

He further revealed civil societies were only engaged by the government once, on Sept 9 on RCEP.

Admitting that the economy is sluggish, Azlan said that the agreement would not help the Malaysian economy.

“We need capital injection for the economy but conceding to RCEP is not the way.

“Don’t rush to sign it. Have more engagement with us.  We have listed our concerns and demands. Keep us informed. What is included and excluded,” he said.

Azlan added that the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) that allows companies to sue governments, featured in TPPA, is absent in RCEP.

Malay Economic Action Council chief executive officer Yazid Othman questioned whether policies by the new government will be affected by signing the RCEP agreement.

“Will the shared prosperity vision be affected by this agreement?  Don’t take it easy. Be responsible for your actions.

“If New Malaysia wants progress, they should have better consultation,” he said, adding that there were 20 consultation sessions previously for TPPA.

Yazid also reminded Putrajaya that the agreements were crafted by corporate lawyers, with the sole intention of maximising profits for their clients.

Consumer Association of Penang’s legal advisor Karina Yong, meanwhile, revealed that provisions on e-commerce in RCEP would allow free flow of access to personal data.

Negotiations will be held from tomorrow until Sept 27 in Da Nang, Vietnam.

By K Pragalath