Press TV | Mon Feb 28, 2011
Malaysians protest EU free trade agreements
Mahi Ramakrishnan, Press TV, Kuala Lumpur
Hundreds of people protested outside the venue where the second round of free trade negotiations between Malaysia and the European Union were taking place.
The protesters said the free trade deal, if inked, would adversely affect the poor and only benefit multinational corporations.
The European Union-Malaysia free trade deal, the protesters claimed, would discourage and wipe out the country’s agriculture and farming industries as EU highly subsidizes its farmers.
The anti-FTA activists also carried coffins to signify the possible fatality rates as Malaysia would have to agree to an intellectual property chapter, making medicines expensive.
For example HIV positive patients might have to fork out 15,000 US dollars per person per year compared with the current 80 US dollars.
Earlier a scuffle broke out between the protesters and police as some officers tried to seize banners and placards.
Despite police presence the protesters were chanting slogans calling on the Malaysian government to abandon the talks.
Economists in the country however say the protesters are politicizing the matter and pointed out that the trade deals would create a bigger market and trading bloc which would contribute to Malaysia’s economic growth.
Malaysia is the European Union’s second trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as ASEAN, after Singapore, with bilateral trade in goods reaching 24 billion euro in 2009.
Early into the protest, the police sprayed chemical irritants at the crowd to force them to disperse.
While Malaysia is keen to push for the free trade agreement with the European Union, economists say that the government must first dismantle affirmative action policies which benefit the Malay community, to ensure competitiveness. But whether or not the Malaysian government is able to do so remains to be seen.