By Dr Wee Teck Young
I wonder what Singaporeans will think of the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ warning on the 7th of July, 2014, that ‘the Trans-Pacific Partnership will further erode access to life saving medicines in all countries involved in the deal, hitting poor and vulnerable people the hardest’.
Do we presume that governments and corporations are wise in negotiating this trade agreement, and that these humanitarian doctors don’t have the larger national or international interests in mind when they express concern for the least empowered among us?
Similarly, has today’s uncritical belief in governments rather than in their citizens led to peace activists being seen as troublemakers, or ignorant idealists, and to governments being seen as having good and just reasons for waging wars?
Not many Singaporeans know about the ‘closed-door’ negotiations being conducted by the Singaporean government and the governments of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Vietnam and the leader of this pack, the United States.
New Zealanders protest against the TPP
Japanese cattle farmers protest against the TPP
This deal is now being crafted without public scrutiny or discourse, in Ottawa, Canada.
I’m concerned about the lack of democratic accountability and transparency in negotiating this Partnership. And I wonder, if Singaporeans were a little more informed about these rather ‘secret’ talks, would the potential effect of the TPP on poor and vulnerable Singaporeans and others cause us to at least ask for more information?
If we asked further questions, or asked for a more open discussion about the Trans-Pacific Partnership like The Straits Times once did, we may be greeted with silence or less palatably, with a government attitude that seems to have irked many Singaporean voters, “Just take it from us, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be good for trade and therefore good for our GDP. We know. The physicians of Doctors without Borders don’t know enough.”
I think that even if it turns out after some years that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has benefited all, including the ‘poor and vulnerable’, we should at least have examined its pros and con and show curiosity.
We should at least have been curious about whether Doctors without Borders was making an unthinking analysis, or whether they, as doctors reputed to risk their lives in helping others, had insidious intentions in opposing this trade agreement.
We should at least enquire, “Who will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership?”
Dr Wee Teck Young ( Dr Hakim ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.