Malaysian socialists put forward 'people's' alternative to TPP, free trade agreements

By Duncan Roden March 2, 2018
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal  — The movement against the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and other pro-corporate “free trade” deals seek to halt the signing of such agreements. To do this, many opponents seek not just to expose the dangers of the CPTPP, but put forward a better model for trade. The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) is one group that has sought to set out an alternative vision for international trade, releasing a People's Charter on International Trade Agreements in January. “We knew just how damaging the TPPA was and we have others like the RCEP [the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal involving 10 South-East Asian nations] that are also dangerous to the country,” said PSM secretary-general Sivarajan Arumugam. “There is no point fighting each trade agreement, so we have decided to fight all the agreements together with our People’s Charter on International Trade Agreements.” The People’s Charter proposes “people-centred” trade agreements. It puts forward nine themes that should define future trade agreements, including:
• protecting government’s capacity to protect people and environment;

• access to medicines;

• food security;

• banning the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, where corporations can sue governments;

• protecting small- and medium-sized business;

• cutting tax evasion;

• favouring poorer countries;

• transparent negotiations and public consultation; and

• enhancing people’s livelihood.
One of the most interesting proposals in the charter is a call for a regional minimum wage, “preventing the race to the bottom, countries competing amongst each offering low wages in order to attract [foreign investment].” Such a mechanism would alleviate one of the primary concerns of the wealthier nations, such as Australia, that the CPTPP will allow in more foreign workers to “take our jobs”. The protectionist push back against foreign workers, which may be rooted in genuine concern for workers, often encourages the growth of racist and right-wing movements. This is an inherent characteristic of capitalist trade relations, which are inevitably competitive. The People’s Charter shows a way forward to global trade that is based on international solidarity and mutual benefit. The People's Charter can be downloaded here