Future free trade pacts must not impair Malaysia’s policy space: Legal consultant — Gurdial Singh Nijar


Source: The Sun Daily

(Deputy President, HAKAM)

PETALING JAYA: The likely demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) gives Malaysia an opportunity to ensure that any free trade agreement in the future does not impair the country’s policy space, said Sreenevasan Advocates & Solicitors consultant, Gurdial Singh Nijar.

“We rushed into signing the TPP without looking carefully of the consequences – in particular whether or not the US Congress would approve it and the impact of the US elections, as well as the fact that any change of our laws will have to be approved by the US Congress and for it to determine whether or not we had complied with the TPP as they saw it. This is a blight on our sovereignty,” he told SunBiz in an email interview.

The legal consultant, who is a former law professor, said the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the trade deal gave undue power to foreign corporations to sue the government if their investments were affected by any changes that the government may wish to introduce.

These changes could include matters such as environment and health, made to protect the citizens’ interests.

“Developing and developed countries have been sued under similar provisions for billions of dollars in projected profits,” he said.

Prior to the signing of the TPP agreement on Feb 4, 2016, Gurdial and other parties, including Bantah TPPA, had highlighted the potential issues related to ISDS provisions.

Issues surrounding ISDS had also become quite prominent due to the international case between tobacco company Philip Morris and the Australian government whereby the company brought an investment dispute against the government for its plan for packaging legislation for tobacco.

“As to the impact on our economy – the jury is still out – although established economists (such as Nobel laureates and former UN economic advisers) have advised that the TPP will not bring the projected economic and other benefits,” said Gurdial.

“This is a salutary lesson not to be involved in secret negotiations and to be open and transparent, and engage the citizenry in matters that will affect them beyond the political tenure of our political leaders,” he added.

Gurdial Singh Nijar - file pic

Gurdial Singh Nijar – file pic

Gurdial is a former law professor and currently a legal consultant as well as Deputy President of HAKAM.