Columnists

Global Trends

Published: Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 7:54:02 AM

An eventful week on the TPPA

Last week saw a series of important events on the hot topic of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the official round in Brunei and a round table in Kuala Lumpur, leading to the question: What next?

LAST week saw many important developments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The 19th round of the negotiations concluded in Brunei after an intense week. It emerged that many issues are still controversial and that the target of signing the treaty by year end cannot be met.

Malaysia’s tone at the negotiations has also changed, with Inter-national Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed informing his counter parts of the domestic opposition to the TPPA and various issues which Malaysia has problems with.

Malaysia’s negotiators earned bouquets from NGOs for tabling a new proposal that tobacco control measures should be excluded altogether from TPPA disciplines.

Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, a roundtable workshop on the TPPA brought together 200 people. Keynote speaker Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed his opposition to the TPPA and urged the Government not to join it.

The Aug 26-27 round table was organised by the MTEM (Malay Economic Action Council) and the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

The participants came up with 75 “red lines”, or positions that are non-negotiatble, that they would like the Government to adopt.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak received the “red lines” document from the MTEM leadership at the group’s Hari Raya open house on Aug 28.

Mustapa also announced that the Government was going ahead with organising two cost benefit studies on the TPPA’s impacts on national interests and on SMEs and the bumiputra economy. Only if there are net benefits will the country sign the treaty.

It looks like the strong views voiced by various groups and politicians have influenced the Government’s thinking.

A strong sign of this was at the ministerial meeting of TPPA countries in Brunei on Aug 22-23. Chaired by the American Trade Represen-tative, the meeting was supposed to give ministers the chance to clear the contentious issues that the technical negotiators could not settle, and thus pave the way to a quick conclusion.

Instead, the ministerial meeting turned into an anti-climax as some ministers did not attend, and some others who attended did not stay for the press conference that lasted only 20 minutes.

And instead of clearing hard issues, the ministerial meeting gave a chance to some ministers to highlight contentious issues themselves.

Mustapa was one of those who took that opportunity. “I drew attention to the growing discomfort domestically arising from Malaysia’s participation in the TPP negotiations, the outreach activities that had been undertaken and the concerns raised by the various stakeholders, specifically on the issue of lack of transparency and disclosure of information on the texts being negotiated,” said the minister in a statement.

He also highlighted the difficulties Malaysia has on government procurement, the need for exclusions of SMEs and preferences for bumiputra which are required for the Malaysian government to continue with its socio-economic development goals and affirmative action policy.

He also underscored that Malaysia had serious difficulties with the current proposal on state-owned enterprises, which is seen to go beyond the stated objective of creating a level playing field as it had serious implications for Malaysian SOEs.

And on intellectual property, he reiterated Malaysia’s strong position on access to affordable medicines while on environment, that there was a need to safeguard the state governments’ jurisdictions.

The following day, Malaysia also caused quite a stir by putting forward a new proposal to totally exclude tobacco control measures from the disciplines of the whole TPPA.

This was warmly welcomed by public health groups, which then called on the US and other countries to agree to the Malaysian position.

At the MTEM round table in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Mahathir gave a 40-minute critique of the TPPA, the problems it would create for domestic policy and why Malaysia can expand its trade even without such agreements. He ended with a strong call to the Government not to sign the treaty.

For two days, the participants discussed specific TPPA issues in six breakout groups and at the closing plenary they adopted 75 “red lines” which they called on the Government to take on as part of its negotiating positions.

The “red lines” include a rejection of the investor-state dispute settlement system, the exclusion of the chapters or sections on government procurement and state-owned enterprises, and demands that the intellectual property chapter does not require obligations that are stronger than the World Trade Organisation’s rules, especially with regard to patents and medicines, and copyright issues.

It should be noted that some of these civil society “red lines” correspond to the concerns that Mustapa had taken up at the TPPA ministerial meeting.

It looks as though the Govern-ment’s position has been affected by the voices of civil society, business and experts.

A key question, of course, is whether in taking up these issues, the minister and the negotiators will make their own “red lines” out of the concerns.

The next question is whether the other TPPA participants will accommodate themselves to Malaysia’s positions. And if not, then what happens next.

In any case, it has been a very interesting week or 10 days, full of events and developments, on the hot issue of TPPA, both at the official meeting and on the home front.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Global Trends, Martin Khor

More Articles

Filter by

Upping the fight against bacteria

25 May 2015

This week, the World Health Assembly will adopt a global plan to address antibiotic resistance and other forms of antimicrobial resistance. But will it be implemented?

Crunch time for TPPA talks

11 May 2015

Negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement have to be concluded in the next few weeks, or it will be suspended. But there are still many unsettled issues.

: (From L) Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, China’s President Xi Jinping, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, his wife Iriana Widodo, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansur, Mufidhah, wife of Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Jusuf Kalla and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen walk down the street with other Asian and African leaders during ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung on western Java island on April 24, 2015. Bandung was the site of the landmark 1955 Asian African Conference, credited with galvanising momentum towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAST IRHAM

A short walk but with giant steps

27 April 2015

Bandung 2015 is a chance to build on the cooperation among developing countries launched by Bandung 1955.

Winds of change in Asia

13 April 2015

The birth of new development banks led by developing countries and the United States’ failure to block them are signs of rebalancing of economic power, especially in Asia.

Lee Kuan Yew and the Asian model

30 March 2015

An important legacy of Lee Kuan Yew was the formulation of one of the Asian models that have been driving successful Asian economies forward.

Putting the finger on external debt

16 March 2015

As the country’s situation has become a topic of debate and confusion, it is useful to review and clear the air on the matter.

Gaza under fire — six months on

2 March 2015

HUNDREDS of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are still homeless or live in the rubble of the 20,000 houses that were destroyed and 80,000 others damaged by Israeli bombs and artillery fire.

A new wave of trade protection?

16 February 2015

Two US Congress Bills on currency manipulation threaten to unleash a new wave of trade protection and may also derail trade agreements like the TPPA.

Crisis or opportunity for Greece?

2 February 2015

A political earthquake in Greece opens new roads, either to a resolution to its economic crisis or a very messy situation for Europe and the world economy.

Inundated: An aerial view of a flooded area near Pengkalan Chepa. Climate change means both heavy rainfall and dry spells can occur within the same year.

Lessons from the great floods

19 January 2015

The recent floods should be treated as a 'new normal' linked to regular weather extremes, and a system should be established to curb the causes and effectively managed disasters.

advertisement

Recent Posts

More Columnists

advertisement