It is unfortunate and disappointing that this government has been so disorganised in providing adequate explanations about the TPPA, says WH Cheng.
The negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or better known by its acronym, TPPA, which includes Malaysia, has taken place for about eight years.
Prime Minister Najib Razak also announced in his Budget 2016 speech that Malaysia had agreed in principle to join the US-sponsored trade agreement because of its benefits to our people.
The TPPA is expected to be tabled in parliament on 26 January, following which a vote will take place to set the course for the government to officially endorse the trade agreement, which is due to be officially sealed in February 2016.
Much has been said by the government on the goodness of the TPPA, but if there are so many goodies in this trade agreement, why hasn’t the government revealed the details? Why weren’t any of the details outlined to the general public if this pact serves the interest of our people?
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Najib and his government have insisted that there was no reason for Malaysia to walk away from the TPPA now. He has even briefly outlined some of the TPPA benefits in the recently concluded Umno general assembly but did not elaborate on the detailed trade benefits that would really serve the interests of our entire population.
As the endorsement and signing ceremony of the TPPA is approaching, the government has been rushing in its efforts to convince all parties by outlining the major benefits of the trade agreement.
Uncertainties in government’s efforts
The government’s efforts, however, seem to be blurred and uncertain. After so many years of negotiations, this government and its officials are still clueless as to how to carry out all the necessary explanations, such as what should be outlined, the impact of the TPPA on our people, which segments to focus on, the priorities and their real targeted audience.
Until today, there have been few real public briefings taking place. But a more business-structured and corporate kind of briefings have been organised so far, during which businesses and corporate leaders have been called upon to participate.
So, are these real public briefings? Can the ordinary people out there really understand the various corporate and trade jargon presented, which can only be understood by business and corporate figures?
The government is busy outlining the benefits that will only serve a small segment of our population, in particular small group of businesses and industries. What the government has failed to outline is the impact of the TPPA, which could possibly harm our nation’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our people.
And if the impact is potentially negative, such as rising inflation, certain effects on SMEs, labour rights and sanctions of imports from non-TPPA nations, what necessary remedies can this government offer to ease the burden of our people?
Increasing socio-economic concerns
The political and economic uncertainties have become increasingly worrisome and the majority of our people are mostly concerned about what would become of their livelihoods in the near future.
The big question here is, can the TPPA benefit every single man, woman and child, as the government has claimed?
Then what are these benefits for these people? Can this government go down to the ground and talk to the people, ask them if they have prospered or otherwise, and let them know how this TPPA will help them?
We doubt it! The TPPA would be a grave disappointment at the end of the day.
If the people are unable to manage with their existing income, well, as a minister said, just take up two or three jobs.
Miti knows best?
The other question here: is the Ministry of International Trade and Industries (Miti) the only government agency in this nation that has been undertaking the TPPA negotiations?
As far as we know, apart from Miti, there were more that 15 other government ministries, departments, agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) who had participated in the negotiations.
So, why is it only Miti that has been tasked with briefing the entire nation on this trade agreement? Why aren’t the other ministries, departments, agencies and GLCs given the same responsibility of outlining the TPPA details to their respective segments of industries?
It is very unfortunate and disappointing that this government has been so disorganised in providing adequate explanations on these issues – and only resorts to condemning and ignoring those who oppose the TPPA by labelling them as “noise makers”.
By the way, will opposing the TPPA become a seditious offence in future?