TPPA reached a deal, but will Malaysia sign it?
After marathon sessions into late nights and early mornings since Sept 26 this year, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) deal has finally been struck.
Congratulations to our leading International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed and his dedicated team of officials. They deserve our admiration for their commitment, care and consistency, in advancing Malaysia’s interests to the hilt.
Apparently, we received many TPPA concessions for our deep concerns about protecting bumiputra interests, government procurement and continued safeguards for our well-protected state-owned enterprises and also for our intellectual property rights. We took a tough stand on all these vital issues during the arduous TPPA negotiations.
Now Malaysians will raise many questions, as follows?
1. How acceptable and relevant will these concessions be to the strong vested interest groups in our country?
The official text of the proposed TPPA agreement will be presented to the cabinet, Parliament and the public. That is a welcome and a necessary prerequisite, particularly because the negotiations had been secret.
2. What if the vested interests in our country resist any reduction in their trade privileges and protection? Will the government be able to resist them and stand for national interests, or
3. Would the government want to continue to protect these narrow and entrenched vested interests?
Of course all those who benefitted from crony capitalism and state capture will not want any changes in their cozy conduct of their businesses and way of life.
4. So how will the government handle them – with kid gloves or a strong hand?
That will be the litmus test of strong leadership and the sustainability of longer term competitiveness for Malaysia?
5. What do we do next?
Now we all will have to wait for hopefully only a little while more to examine the full facts of this so-called ‘TPPA deal’.
Now the whole world will better understand our own reservations on TPPA’s free trade or as Nobel Prize winner Prof J Stigler describes it, managed trade agreement. We will then also get to know whether the US is taking advantage of Asean and the smaller and weaker economies in the Pacific Basin and mainly looking after its own narrow interests?
The trade minister and his able Miti officials would need to hold several town hall meetings to explain to the rakyat what the TPPA means to us all. We cannot afford to leave important national agreements and treaties to only politicians to decide, as they may have their own political deals to settle. We have all to actively participate in the debate outside Parliament as well.
Now is the time to be more open and transparent in our dealings on the TPPA, and other national issues, which will affect our way of life for all Malaysians for a long, long time to come.
Hence we must all take a serious interest in the TPPA and approve it before it is signed – only if our total national interests are met, and not only some narrow vested interests are fulfilled.