The Star 8 October 2015
PETALING JAYA: The full contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will be made public a month from now, says the Government, as civil society groups urged it to explain clearly how the pact will benefit Malaysia.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said a cost benefit analysis of the free trade pact to Malaysia was also nearing completion.
He said that the analysis, along with the full text of the agreement, would be tabled in Parliament within two months.
“Even if Parliament agrees, Malaysia will have two years to ratify the TPPA and we can reject or agree to the TPPA within that two-year period,” Mustapa said in a post on his Facebook page.
On Monday, Malaysia and 11 other Pacific Rim countries reached a deal on the TPPA which will be the most sweeping trade liberalisation deal that is supposed to cut trade barriers and set common standards for countries forming 40% of the world economy.
MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the party supports the TPPA as it could increase Malaysia’s competitiveness abroad.
Malaysia could also be the gateway for business for many countries, he said, adding that MCA would get a TPPA expert to provide more details before going to the ground to brief its members.
Civil society groups want the Government to move quickly to win over a public that is still divided over the deal.
“Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and his team have done a tremendous job but they will have a big challenge in explaining and persuading all Malaysians to accept the TPPA,” said ASLI’s Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam.
Mustapa has said the Government will hold full consultations with interested parties and the public before it decides whether or not to accept the TPPA.
Navaratnam said a key focus area should be to explain the details and significance of the concessions that Mustapa said Malaysia had won during the negotiations.
“Otherwise, we can get into a very embarrassing situation where we support the agreement in principle during negotiations, but then find ourselves unable to legally accept the TPPA in the end.”
The concessions include protecting the interest of bumiputras, government procurement and state-owned enterprises, which are among the concerns cited by those opposed to the deal.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the public must be able to be fully involved in scrutinising the full text of the agreement.
“There have been a lot of accusations about the TPPA and we now must ascertain if there is truly any cause for concern.”
Anas Alam Faizli, co-founder of Bantah TPPA, a group comprising 60 non-governmental organisations and nine coalition councils claimed his group has not received any satisfactory answers regarding its concerns so far.
Bantah TPPA last year issued a report that highlighted 77 “redlines” or areas of concern in the TPPA.
They range from possible reduced access to affordable medicines to the potential negative impact of the TPPA on small- and medium-scale enterprises.
Anas said Bantah TPPA will scrutinise the text of the agreement once it is released to determine whether its concerns have been addressed.
The Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) criticised Mustapa’s assurance of a public consultation.
“It does not mean a thing. We can argue about every clause in the agreement but we cannot change any word or sentence or paragraph as the TPPA is at a stage where only a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ decision is required,” said its CEO Mohd Nizam Mahshar.
“Despite the conclusion of negotiations, we still firmly and unequivocally maintain our position that TPPA will not benefit Malaysia’s trade or economic health.”
Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisations (Mapim) president Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid said his group was opposed to the TPPA because it believed the agreement would lead to the dominance of US corporate giants in the Malaysian economy.
He said Mapim was now looking at the possibility of challenging the TPPA in court on grounds that it violated the country’s Constitution.
“We are exploring whether this should be filed by a particular group or collectively as a possible class-action lawsuit.”
Azmi did not discount the possibility of mass protests to get the Government to understand the people’s feelings.