Malaysia’s missed opportunity as Asean chair – Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: The Malaysian Insider

It has been exceptionally hectic for most of the last month as each Malaysian stakeholder related to Asean affairs was geared up to host dialogues and forums to prepare for the 27th Asean Summit and related summits scheduled from 18 to 22 November.

With that, Malaysia comes to an end as Asean chair 2015. Laos will then take over its responsibilities as Asean chair.

There were high expectations when Malaysia took over as the Asean chair from Myanmar in 2015. Malaysia’s two-year term on the UN Security Council echod well with the Asean chair, expanding its international profile and placing Asean on a footing alongside other regional organizations.

2015 is a challenging time for Malaysia’s chairmanship. Expectations can be quite overwhelming as it struggles with domestic, regional and international politics. As Asean is moving towards the realization of the Asean Community, many had expected Malaysia to pursue a more proactive approach. Read more

TPPA: The New Age of Foreign Corporations — Gurdial Singh Nijar

Pic taken from FMT News

Pic taken from FMT News

TPPA: The New Age of Foreign Corporations
by Gurdial Singh Nijar
Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Malaya
16 November 2015

pdf

 

 

1.     Introduction[1]

The TPPA’s finalised chapter on investment and ISDS is out.[2] Sadly, it is not looking good for the country. It introduces a whole new system that gives extraordinary protection to the investments and profits of foreign corporations. It then empowers these corporations to sue governments if these rights are interfered with in any way – through an entire legal framework that is “fundamentally flawed” – known as investor-state-dispute settlement or ISDS, for short. The bounty of extensive rights are not (and, largely, have never been) accorded to citizens of the parties to the TPPA.

Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which led the negotiations, has put on a brave face. In its web page it writes that the ISDS provision is not new. It appears, it says, in Malaysia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with several other countries.

Two crucial aspects MITI does not disclose. First, the scope of the protected investments in respect of which an ISDS case can be brought is far wider than in any other of Malaysia’s previous trade treaties. Secondly, for the first time the US is a party. Its big corporations are notorious for pursuing all sorts of claims against other countries for millions if not billions. Let me elaborate. Read more

No increase in medicine prices under TPP, says IDEAS

Source: The Malaysian Insider

IDEAS’ chief executive, Wan Saiful Wan Jan said there will be no changes in the prices of medicines under the TPP, since the Regulatory Data Protection will be at five years, not long enough to increase the prices. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 16, 2015.

There will be no significant changes in the prices of medicines under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said.

Its Chief Executive, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, said there were concerns over the potential in the prices of medicines as during the TPP negotiations, several TPP members proposed for the Regulatory Data Protection (RDP) to be extended to 12 years.

“However, in the end, all TPP members agreed that the RDP will be at five years. In Malaysia’s case, there will be no changes as our current RDP is at five years,” he told reporters following a TPP discussion on economic growth and protection of intellectual property rights today.

He said just like other countries proposing the RDP extension, the Malaysian government had also been subsidising medicines in public hospitals.

“It’s just that we don’t have proper names like national health insurance system like in these countries.

“Therefore, people shouldn’t be worried of hike in medicine and drug prices,” he said. Read more

Putrajaya to push for temporary suspension of bauxite exports from Pahang, minister says

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Earlier this month when raising a petition seeking Parliament’s intervention on the issue, PKR’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said an estimated 44 companies are exporting some 15 million tonnes of bauxite out of Pahang to China each month. — Reuters pic

Earlier this month when raising a petition seeking Parliament’s intervention on the issue, PKR’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said an estimated 44 companies are exporting some 15 million tonnes of bauxite out of Pahang to China each month. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — The federal government today agreed to a suggestion to temporarily suspend the export of bauxite from Pahang until proper regulations are in place to keep the industry in check.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he is agreeable to the suggestion made by PKR’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, though he stressed that this would require the buy in from Pahang state government.

“We will meet with the state government to discuss the matter,” he said when winding up points raised during the Budget 2016 debate.

Earlier when interjecting, Fuziah stressed that Pahang’s capital city of Kuantan is suffering from heavy pollution caused by illegal mining operations that have mushroomed to meet high demand for the mineral.

She claimed that mining activities have also left a large amount of dust that has allegedly led to a spike in the number of asthma attacks and skin disease among children in the area.

Bauxite is an aluminium ore and considered the world’s main source of the metal. Read more

Suhakam: Putrajaya has agreed to review our budget cut

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam - TRP file pic

Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam – TRP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) revealed today that the federal government has agreed to reconsider its budget for 2016, following its complaint that the drastically reduced sum would force it to operate on a deficit.

In a statement, Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said the commitment was given by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low during a meeting.

“The commission appreciates the valuable commitment made by the Honourable Minister and the assurance that the commission’s budget will be reconsidered so as to place human rights on the government’s list of top priorities,” Hasmy said in thanking Low for considering Suhakam’s complaint.

“This is important amidst concerns being expressed, both at home and abroad, that human rights is not being given the priority it deserves,” he added. Read more

Big firms to reap early TPPA rewards, says Khazanah Research Institute

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Khazanah Research Institute says big companies like Petronas will be the first to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) although small and medium enterprises will not be excluded. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 16, 2015.

Big Malaysian companies such as Petronas, Sime Darby and UEM Group will be the early beneficiaries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) compared to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), said a think tank.

The observation from the Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) comes as SMEs express concern about being sidelined once the TPPA, which promises to remove trade barriers to four new foreign markets for Malaysian companies, comes into force.

KRI managing director Datuk Charon Mokhzani said big Malaysian firms would be in a better position to penetrate these new markets, namely the United States, Canada, Peru and Mexico.

However, SMEs which make up more than 95% of all Malaysian companies, could also benefit from the TPPA if they could become suppliers to these larger firms, Charon said.

Eventually, Charon said, some SMEs could also reap rewards from the TPPA when their products entered these new markets after being introduced by the larger firms.

“The overall effect of the TPPA is still complex and we are still looking at the text and working out a cost-benefit analysis to Malaysia’s economy,” Charon told reporters after a workshop “Why Trade Matters” today. Read more

Putrajaya says OSA to protect government secrets, not hide corruption

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 ― Putrajaya today denied claims that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) is used as a cover up for corruption, stressing that the law is needed to protect information that is key to national security and the economy.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim said the purpose of the OSA is the uphold the integrity of government documents and information that should not be made public.

“The OSA is not used to defend corruption,” he said during Question Time in response to a supplementary question by PAS’ Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar. Read more

Logging focus of debate on Karak landslide

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Persatuan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) claims this photo of a tree stump proves that logging was the cause of the landslide. ― Malay Mail pic

Persatuan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) claims this photo of a tree stump proves that logging was the cause of the landslide. ― Malay Mail pic

BENTONG, Nov 16 — The Karak Highway, closed since a landslide on Wednesday evening, officially opened to traffic again yesterday afternoon as the debate over whether logging was responsible for the disaster heats up.

Environmental group, Persatuan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka), which has been leading the charge against logging in the area, yesterday claimed to have evidence of what caused the landslide.

“Activists from Peka had been there the day after the landslide occurred and we have photographs of tree stumps which indicated logging activities were indeed present in the area. It is a shame the reporters can’t see it for themselves,” said its president, Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, after she and a group of journalist were refused entry into the disaster site by Forestry Department officers yesterday. Read more