Unsung heroes at TPPA talks

Unsung heroes at TPPA talks
Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia's minister of international trade and industry, speaks at the Invest Malaysia 2010 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday, 30 March 2010.

MALAYSIA - With a fresh mandate given by the Cabinet, Malaysian negotiators are going for another round of TPPA talks in Brunei this week. What they also need is the support from the public after facing harsh criticism from many quarters.

Immediately after a special Cabinet meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) last Thursday, Inter­national Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and his senior officials rushed to another meeting in Putrajaya for another TPPA session with academicians and think tanks.

It was to inform and update the group on the latest in the plurilateral negotiations involving Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.

The partnership will create a huge duty free market of 800 million people with a combined GDP of US$27.5 trillion (S$35 trillion).

Much energy and time have been spent by Mustapa and his officers over the last few months on the proposed free trade agreement - meeting groups, attending public forums and even holding an open day - in an unprecedented move to hear the public out on their concerns on the TPPA.

Kudos must be given to Miti for engaging the various stakeholders on the TPPA. On hindsight, however, such engagements should have been done much earlier before the avalanche of criticisms against the TPPA from various quarters.

Critics have been harsh and vocal. Many demanded transparency, alleging the negotiations were being held in secrecy.

Some were bold to ask for negotiations to be suspended as they fear the price of medicine will skyrocket while others thought local SMEs, especially bumiputra, will lose out to bigger companies, especially from the United States.

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