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[ossig] FORUM ON "THE US-MALAYSIA FTA: IMPLICATIONS FOR MALAYSIAN SOCIETY"



Malaysia is in discussions to sign a free trade agreement with the US.
Among other concerns, the signing may potentially introduce US
intellectual right issues in Malaysia (eg, DMCA style copyright, never
ending copyright terms, software patents etc).

This would affect the local software industry and certainly be a
detriment to FOSS development in Malaysia.

Third World Network is organizing a forum to highlight and discuss these
issues. If members of the local FOSS community would like to go for the
meeting this Saturday (read invitation below), email me ASAP as they
have reserved 3 seats for the FOSS community. I'll send them your names
as representatives of the local FOSS group.

Also, if you are interested in other such meetings or IPR specific
meetings, ping me anyway and I'll get TWN to add your contact to their
notification list.

Regards,
Ditesh

---

                    INVITATION TO FORUM ORGANISED BY



 Third World Network, Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam
                              Malaysia ON



       “THE US-MALAYSIA FTA: IMPLICATIONS FOR MALAYSIAN SOCIETY”



                                    



                       On Saturday, 25 March 2006



       Venue: Lotus Hotel, No.1 Jalan Medan Tuanku, Kuala Lumpur



                            10am – 12.30 pm



                                    



  Followed by Strategy Meeting for NGOs at same venue from 1.30 – 3 pm



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



 

On behalf of the Third World Network (TWN), Consumers’ Association of
Penang (CAP)and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), we wish to invite you to a
Forum on “The  US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement: Implications for
Malaysian Society”.

 

In Washington last week, Malaysia and the United States announced their
intention to start negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).  

 

The event was attended by senior US officials including the US Trade
Representative Rob Portman and several US members of Congress.
Malaysia’s delegation was led by Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri
Rafidah Aziz.

 

Now that the intention to have a FTA is announced, 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.

 

These bilateral negotiations are usually very comprehensive and cover a
whole range of matters including:

      * tariff reduction/elimination for goods including agricultural
        products;  
      * liberalisation of the services sector;  
      * regulatory issues affecting trade and investment policies 
      * investment protection  
      * protection of intellectual property   
      * government procurement 
      * competition policy etc

These matters have very significant and profound impacts on the lives of
ordinary citizens as they can affect job and food security, the access
to cheap medicines, the resilience of the domestic industry and service
providers, the viability of small farms and firms etc.  

 

The last round of negotiations in the US-Thai FTA held in Chiangmai in
January ended in some disarray as thousands of people stormed the venue,
protesting against US demands on patents that would restrict the right
of Thailand to provide cheap medicines.  Farmers also voiced concern
that they would face competition from cheap imports and restrictions on
their right to save and re-use seeds.  

 

Some of the key negotiators resigned, and the talks have been suspended
until after the Thai general elections.

 

Talks between the US and South American countries to establish a Free
Trade Area of the Americas have also been stalled for many months due to
disagreements on many issues.  Similarly the talks between the US and
Southern African countries for a FTA have hit an impasse.

 

We can expect that the FTA would significantly open up of the Malaysian
economy in these areas to US goods, services and investment.  Also, some
domestic laws (for example on IP or competition) will have to change,
and these will affect products and relations with all countries and not
only the US.

 

As public interest groups, we are concerned that the negotiations are
not transparent and are not even brought to the attention of
Parliamentarians, even though they  involve critical policy issues (in
areas such as agriculture, industry, services, investment, intellectual
property etc) and existing legislation  that affect the lives of the
general public. 

 

Such was the case of the Japan-Malaysia FTA which concluded at the end
of last year which you may know about. The details were only provided on
the MITI website after the signing of the agreement. We hope that this
process will not repeat itself in the case of the US-Malaysia FTA.

 

We are of the view that such matters of negotiations should be open and
transparent, subject to the scrutiny of the Malaysian Parliament and
public debate.

 

Given the grave implications of the US-Malaysia FTA, it is with urgency
that we are organizing this forum.  It will take place on Saturday, 25
March 2006 at the Lotus Hotel, No.1 Jalan Medan Tuanku, Kuala Lumpur,
10am – 12.30 pm. (please find attached map to the venue).

 

There will be presentations by panel members on the implications of the
US-Malaysia FTA, with a view to exposing participants to the issues at
stake. Participants to the forum will include parliamentarians, NGOs,
trade unions, political parties and journalists.

 

Lunch will be provided.

 

Following the forum, a strategy meeting for NGOs will take place at the
same venue from 1.30 pm – 3 pm.

 

We hope you will be able to participate in this very important forum.
Kindly fill the registration form attached to confirm your
participation.  

 

We look forward to your participation.

 

Yours truly,

 

 

Meena Raman



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