19th Round of TPP Negotiations Being Held in Brunei Threatens Local Companies, Onslaught Of Multinationals
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 http://www.bt.com.bn
I WRITE in response to the letter from MoFAT responding to TPP queries published in The Brunei Times dated August 27, 2013.
Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised to see MoFAT even responding. After so many TPP articles and letters written in The Brunei Times without response, I thought MoFAT simply did not care about the concerns of the people.
Secondly, I was however, really disappointed with the lack of clarity in the reply, which did not address many concerns that have been voiced by the public, and seems to add weight to the rumour that participating countries have to sign a confidentiality agreement, which means they cannot tell their people anything about the TPP negotiations.
Thirdly, reading MoFAT’s response, I couldn’t help but notice this paragraph: "With regard to concerns on foreign service providers entering the Brunei market, the reality remains that Brunei Darussalam currently lacks expertise in many critical areas, and this agreement will enhance the quality of services provided within the country.
At the same time, this will encourage local service providers to become more competitive and deliver higher quality services to consumers, as well as facilitate their entry into the markets of TPP countries."
Personally, this paragraph seems to translate into something along the lines of: "Brunei businesses are simply not good enough in many areas, and introducing foreign competition will make them work harder, and hopefully they will be able to break into other markets in future."
The general consensus is really positive I must say, and if Brunei businesses really survive the foreign onslaught, I am sure they will certainly be good enough to expand into other markets.
The thing is, what if they don’t survive? An editorial from The Brunei Times talked about the potential entrance of Walmart into Brunei. What if our supermarkets like Hua Ho and Supasave do not survive the Walmart onslaught and close down?
The fact is, as MoFAT has already admitted, our local businesses are not good enough, and if we simply allow foreign companies to come into Brunei without barriers, the local industries will suffer, and we will slowly move towards an economy reliant on foreign businesses.
Yes, I am advocating protectionism here, a term that has been given so much negative light all throughout the time free trade agreements have been promoted.
To expect local businesses to simply "live up to the challenge" is expecting too much.
As we all know our businesses cannot survive the onslaught of multinationals.
So my question to MoFAT is, don’t you think it will be exposing Bruneian businesses to unfair competition?