MITI: 180 stakeholders to present views at Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is hosting the 18th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations from July 15-25 in Kota Kinabalu, with Japan participating for the very first time.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) said on Wednesday a half-day programme would be arranged on July 20 for stakeholders who are concerned about the implications of the TPP.

The session was to enable the stakeholders to present their views and concerns. A total of 180 parties have registered for this session, including 51 from Malaysia. 

At the end of the talks on July 25, a press conference will be called to brief the media on the status of the negotiations, the ministry said.

The 11 member countries - original signatory countries Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore; plus the US, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada - and Japan are hoping to expedite negotiations aimed at liberalising trade in the Asia Pacific region and conclude with an agreement by end of the year.

The TPP has attracted attention from various parties within the country, with politicians, businesses and NGOs voicing concerns that it may adversely affect business in the country, specifically Bumiputera concerns.

With the US leading the trade talks, issues being pushed to the forefront include non-preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises, open government procurements, deregulating industries and high standards in intellectual property right, among other things. And they may prove to be formidable stumbling blocks.

Certainly, in the Malaysian context, there have been signs of discontent and a fear that the Bumiputera agenda might be eroded.

Just last month, the Malay Economic Action Council (MEAC) walked out of a consultation meeting with MITI, citing the ministry's refusal to reveal details on its talks on the TPP as the reason.

MEAC said it was worried the TPP would threaten local small- to medium-scale enterprises and expose Malaysia to lopsided trade conditions.

In response, Malaysia's chief negotiator J. Jayasiri had reportedly stated "sensitive issues would be put aside to be dealt with later".

The Consumer Association of Penang voiced concerns over the possibilities that Malaysia would be pressured into agreeing to patenting terms that would delay entry of affordable generic medicines into the country, as well as drive prices up.

On the international front, the TPP is not without controversy either.

As the Financial Times put it: "The striking feature of this burst of free trading is who is absent. The agreements are an important part of the fresh ways Washington is developing to deal with China, the world's biggest exporter of manufactured goods.

"After urging China to behave as 'a responsible stakeholder' and after the brief flirtation with a G2 arrangement in Mr Obama's first year, the new trade approach might be characterised as ABC - Anyone But China."

Ding Gang, a well-known journalist for the People's Daily, who specialises in international affairs, commented "the US does not want to be squeezed out of the Asia-Pacific region by China. The (TPP) is superficially an economic agreement but contains an obvious political purpose to constrain China's rise."

"The risk of the new US approach is that it could encourage China to turn its back even more on the global trading system, diminishing the incentive to comply rather than intensifying it. If that were to happen, the US-EU trade talks would not herald a new era of economic integration but rather another nail in the coffin of globalisation," the Financial Times warned.

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