Malaysia Could Delay TPP Pact

By Chua Guan Cheong   http://www.bt.com.bn   Saturday, August 24, 2013
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
MALAYSIA’S decision to conduct two cost-benefit analyses on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could delay the signing of the agreement, which was originally slated to be concluded by October this year.
According to reports by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Malaysia’s federal Cabinet has agreed to two cost-benefit analyses aimed at equipping Malaysian negotiators with additional information as they seek to safeguard the broader interests of all stakeholders in the country.
The WSJ wrote that one study will focus on the overall impact of the trade agreement on Malaysia’s national interest. The other will examine how the interests of small and medium enterprises (SME) and businesses owned by bumiputras (indigenous people) would be affected if the TPP comes into effect.
"The only way to convince the stakeholders is to do a cost-benefit analysis and send a message that, even though there are some short-term losses, in the long run the country is going to benefit," the WSJ quoted Singapore-based Sanchita Basu Das, a lead researcher in economic affairs at the ASEAN Studies Centre, as saying.
Last month, the 18th round of negotiations was conducted in Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. According to the WSJ, some thorny issues such as the diminished role of state-owned enterprises in the post-TPP market had sparked resistance in Vietnam and Malaysia, where government-backed companies are deeply entrenched in the economy.
"The Cabinet is of the view that Malaysia should not be bound by any fixed timeline with regard to the TPP," a statement last week from Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) said.
According to The Malay Mail, high on the priority is the concern that Malaysia will have to sacrifice its affordable, government-regulated health care and medicine.
"The Cabinet is firm in ensuring access to affordable medicine remains its utmost priority, which will not be compromised in the ongoing TPP negotiations," the MITI said in the statement.
Negotiators of all 12 TPP countries — Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, Japan — are currently in the Sultanate for the 19th round of TPP negotiations.
The ministers of the TPP countries met yesterday and Thursday to discuss how best to address key outstanding issues to meet the October time frame, seemingly to coincide with American President Barack Obama’s visit to the region.
While the general sentiments among stakeholders in all 12 countries seem to point to an uneasiness about the secrecy surrounding the TPP discussions, with minimal information being disclosed after more than three years and 18 rounds of negotiations. US Trade Representative Michael Froman told Bruneian media on Wednesday that "this is among the most transparent processes of any international negotiations we have seen".
Froman was quoted by The Brunei Times as saying: "We in the United States consult very pro-actively with our Congress … at every stage in the negotiation process, including before we take on any proposals."
The Brunei Times
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