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Coalition on US-Malaysia FTA memorandum to the government of Malaysia

12 June 2006



To The Chief Negotiator,
Government of Malaysia

Dear Sir,

We are concerned Malaysian organizations and citizens who have come together to form the ‘Coalition On the US-Malaysia FTA’ and we wish to express our concerns over the ongoing US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations. We represent people living with HIV/AIDS, consumers, workers, farmers, health activists, human rights groups and other sections of the Malaysian public.

On 8 March this year, Malaysia and the United States announced their intention to start negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). There will be high pressure negotiations in the next few months, as the aim is to complete the deal by the end of the year, to take advantage of the US President’s “fast track authority” that ends in mid-2007.

We are aware that the scope of the negotiations covers a wide range of sectors of tremendous importance to Malaysian citizens which can have very significant and profound impacts on jobs and food security, the access to affordable medicines, the resilience of the domestic industry and service providers, the viability of small farms and firms and ultimately national sovereignty.

Before negotiating the US FTA or any FTA at all for that matter, the Malaysian Government should have at least a comprehensive Cost-Benefit assessment which is made public and transparent as in the case of Environmental Impact Assessments, and most recently the launch of Social Impact Assessments. The benefits and costs can be assessed in terms of: (a) gains and losses in trade terms: e.g. increase in exports, imports; (b) gains and losses in terms of jobs; (c) effects on the degree of policy space and flexibilities available to the country as a result of the FTA; (d) social effects: on access to affordable medicines, to knowledge, food security etc; (e) effects on technology transfer and development and (f) the cross-cutting social and environmental costs.

We understand that such a detailed Cost-Benefit assessment has not been done and yet, the first round of negotiations are taking place in Penang from 12-16 June, 2006. How can such negotiations take place when we are not even clear yet as to what we will gain and what we are prepared to trade-off? Who among Malaysians will gain and who will bear the loss?

Many vulnerable groups such as some rice farmers in Kedah and people living with HIV/AIDs have asked questions as to how they will be affected by the proposed negotiations. They have had no feedback from the government.

Most people, including many in the government and in Parliament are not aware about the implications of such an FTA.

This is because important negotiations such as this are conducted in a most un-democratic and non-transparent manner. There is no Parliamentary oversight over what is being committed to, as existing polices and laws are changed or adjusted to accommodate the US. There is also no genuine avenue for public participation or feedback in the process when the lives of ordinary citizens can be dramatically affected. This is most contrary to the current Government’s commitment to greater transparency and accountability.

We are also aware of citizens’ protests around the world in relation to the US FTAs as has been the experience in Latin America and most recently in Thailand. We also know that in FTAs which have been concluded with the US, commitments by developing countries have gone far beyond their obligations in the World Trade Organisation. This is most unfair and unjust.

As a result of the growing protest from various groups in our country, and numerous memoranda and letters sent to the government, some NGOs have been invited by some Ministries to a few meetings in the last few weeks. Those meetings reaffirm our fears that the Government is ill-prepared for the type of intensive and aggressive negotiations typical of the US trade interests. They confirm the need for full public consultation.

While there was some assurance from a Government Minister that Malaysia will not be bound by a US time-frame, we are very surprised and disappointed to hear that Malaysia has agreed to five negotiating sessions this year.

Given the lack of transparency and accountability in the on-going negotiations and the strong likelihood of an imbalanced outcome in the US-Malaysia FTA negotiations, we urgently call on the Government to halt all further negotiations in this regard, until a comprehensive Cost-Benefit assessment is done. Such a Cost-Benefit assessment must be made public and be open to both Parliamentary and public oversight and feedback and found to be beneficial to Malaysian citizens.

We also call for a Parliamentary Select Committee on FTAs to be established so that the input of MPs and civil society will be taken into account during the FTA negotiations so that there will be a beneficial and favourable outcome for Malaysian citizens in the FTA.

Until then no negotiations should proceed.


Yours sincerely

S.M.Mohamed Idris,
f Coalition on US-M’sia FTA
c/o Consumers Association of Penang,
10, Jalan Mesjid Negeri, 11600, Penang
Tel: 04-8299511/ Fax: 04-8298109


  1. Consumers’ Association of Penang [CAP]
  2. Sahabat Alam Malaysia [SAM]
  3. Third World Network [TWN]
  4. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group [MTAAG+]
  5. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia [ABIM]
  6. Teras Pengupayaan Melayu [TERAS] ( Malay Empowerment Group)
  7. Malaysian Trade Union Congress, Penang [MTUC, Penang]
  8. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation [MSN]
  9. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas [JERIT] (Network of Expolited Communities)
  10. Community Development Centre [CDC]
  11. Pemuda Sosialis (Socialist Youth)
  12. Gabungan Anak Muda & Pelajar, JERIT (Coalition of Youth and Students)
  13. Jawatankuasa Kebajikan Mahasiswa/i, UKM (Committeee of University Students)
  14. Gabungan Perkerja Kilang & Kesatuan, JERIT (Coalition of Workers and Unions)
  15. Parti Sosialis Malaysia [PSM] (Socialist Party of Malaysia)
  16. Gabungan Peneroka & Perumahan, JERIT (Coalition of Settlers)
  17. Jawatankuasa Sokongan Masyarakat Ladang, JERIT (Coalition of Plantation Workers)
  18. Aliran Kesedaran Negara [ALIRAN]
  19. United Rural Citizens Association of Kedah, Malaysia [RURAL CITIZENS]
  20. Angkatan Sahabat Alam Sekitar Kerpan [ASAS Kerpan] (Friends of the Environment, Kerpan
  21. Angkatan Sahabat Alam Sekitar Merbok [ASAS Merbok] Friends of the Environment, Merbok
  22. Persatuan Peneroka Felda Chini, Pahang [CISNET] Chini Felda Settlers Association
  23. Pertubuhan Prihatin Kesihatan dan Sosial Malaysia [PRIHATIN MALAYSIA]
  24. Malaysian Voters’ Union [MALVU]
  25. Save Ourselves [SOS]
  26. Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Penang [SUARAM, Penang]
  27. Persatuan Ulamak Malaysia P.Pinang (PUM PP) Ulamak Association of Penang
  28. Persatuan Ulamak Kedah (PUK) Ulamak Association of Kedah
  29. Young Environmentalist (YES)
  30. Campus Environmentalist Network (CARE)
  31. Institut Penyelidikan dan Pembangunan Komunti (IMPAK) Institute for Research and Community Development
  32. Penang Inshore Fisherman Welfare Association (PIFWA)
  33. Malaysian Inshore Fisherman Network
  34. Persatuan Bidan Tradisional Wilayah Utara (Northern RegionTraditional Midwives Association)
  35. Sekretariat Himpunan Ulamak Rantau Asia (SHURA) (Asian Secretariat of Ulamaks)
  36. Permuafakatan NGO Islam Wilayah Utara (Islamic NGOs)
  37. Jawatankuasa Bertindak Petani Menentang US FTA (Committee of Farmers Against the FTA)
  38. Pergerakan Penyelidikan dan Pembangunan Komuniti (KOMUNITI)

 source: FTA Malaysia