Yang Berbahgia Dato’ Sri Idris Jala,
I read your latest posting in your website dated 23rd January 2016. Thanks for an honest sharing of your thought on TPPA.
Dato’ you were right to state that TPPA is a gateway to a wider markets for Malaysian, hence we can now have access to international market of 11 more countries of TPPA. Being a trading country, I can’t agree more that Malaysia need to proliferate our foot print into every single corner of the globe to gain market access.
However, I think you missed out another pertinent points of TPPA, which Malaysia is signing too, that it is not just a trade agreement. We are signing for a pact which is far beyond just trades. What is far more important, we also bind to intellectual properties, environmental and the most importantly, Malaysian rules of law. I will elaborate these points later.
But before proceeding further, allow me to put to record that no one against trades and open competition especially in gaining market access. By all means, Malaysian entrepreneurs need to encroach the global market and grow, which will in turn increase Malaysian GDP and TPPA, might probably able to provide that. But the question now, are we ready? Does TPPA is able to provide a level playing ground to all members, in the spirit of “fair and equitable treatment”. Do we have enough muscle to compete with a country of 318 million population and a GDP of USD17 trillion and per capita income of USD54,000?
It is not about free trade but it is about the ability to compete. The government should have allowed more time for Malaysian to gain more muscles to compete effectively than just allow free market to rule and decide. The playing game is still not level and there’s no way we can compete squarely. In spite, we should rather take a gradual approach hence over time we can gain more strength and compete in a gradually larger market. Thus, we should concentrate to perform well in AFTA first, now came AEC. We can’t even compete firmly in AFTA and AEC, how do we expect Malaysian to perform in TPPA. The most classic example is Proton which is still defying the AFTA free market requirement for automotive industry. If Proton is still struggling, what about the SME?
Yes there are many reasons for not been performing in AFTA, perhaps due to internal own flaws. But that does not mean we should punish them. Being a responsible government of protecting our own businesses, we should “walk them through” until they are more capable to compete. Besides, government have their own fault too. Thus, by opening the market gradually Malaysian businesses and indeed, the whole eco system will gain capability and be ready to go global.
Dato’ Sri, on the same token, I think you personally experienced the same thing too. Being a very successful corporate figure in a MNC and Malaysian corporate world, does not come over night right? Would you be in the same position if only been taken out from Bario and put to compete in Shell? I don’t think so. But rather you have gone through an evolution of knowledge and experience in USM and UK and overtime you gain capability, confidence and strength to compete. That what all Malaysian should do, including our businesses.
If you expose us all through a global world of TPPA, which is literally WTO (please refer to Preamble and Chapter 1 of TPPA), we will be suffocated in the flood of trades and do not have enough time to learn, recoup our strength and compete. And again this is free trades, so they won’t wait until you are ready. Are we going to let to the market to decide on the fate of our businesses? Isn’t it the responsibility of the government? Yes there are some clauses in TPPA that provide remedial exemption, but that is not forever and it is not free. This is well stated in Chapter 6 Trade Remedies, i.e. maximum remedial period is three years and over the period, compensation is payable.
What I have mentioned is just the technicality of an open trades in TPPA. As I mentioned earlier above that TPPA is just not trades, it is far beyond that. One that is very worrying is the sovereignty of our rules of law. This is as mentioned in Chapter 25 Regulatory Coherence that says there must be an alignment of Malaysian rules and laws (I can’t avoid thinking of constitution too…) to comply and abide by the international law. Which rules and laws (hopefully doesn’t involve constitutions) that we need to amend? And if all are amended according to the requirement of TPPA, which rules and laws (hopefully doesn’t involve constitutions) are superior to the other? International laws or Malaysian rules and laws (constitutions?). If this is done, how can we be sure that our laws have the ability to protect our interest, being the rakyat of Malaysia?
Perhaps this is probably the whole spirit of TPPA of fair treatment as clearly mentioned in Chapter 2 National Treatment and Market Access for Goods.
The other most debated clause is on intellectual property which in turn will substantially affect the price of drugs. Over the time of this sensational debates, the government have been trying to convince the rakyat that this is not the case. However, confidence for rakyat is not forthcoming. Even MMA does not offer their confidence as they are worry about rakyat’s access to generic drugs. I personally heard YB Tok Pa’s replies to the same question during his session in UKM. And true enough, there is no straight answer offered but rather a rhetoric. YB Tok Pa said that the increase in drugs price does not tie to patent only but other factors too like production cost, materials, etc. This also means that yes, the price of drugs will increase post TPPA.
TPPA is also on environment. But having reading the text on Chapter 20 Environment, I sense some double standard in the air even before the agreement started. TPPA require all members to abide and comply with the Kyoto Protocol on ozone protection, which Malaysia ourselves have successfully done. However, I found this very one sided as the US themselves have not ratified the protocol and still, as we speak, stands as the biggest emitter of CO2 in the world. Let’s not be prejudice, but how do we expect a fair game when there is unfairness right from the start.
There are a lot of vague and other worrying matters in TPPA, which I might not be able to describe every single one of it in this limited opportunity. Matters like ISDS and SOE are also primal pressing. What is going to happen to Petronas and its vendor system in the long run, no clear escape clause mentioned, etc?
Dato’ Sri, as I repeatedly mentioned early, it is not about competing, it is about timing. Given the right opportunity and time, Malaysian is able to be global too, which some of Malaysian, including your kind self, have successfully done. Even without TPPA. Hence, why we are so rush now. It is not too late still, lets pull back and recoup our strategy to ensure that Malaysia can better be successful in the globalise world and avoid the predicament of TPPA.