17 October 2013
MITI must not compromise integrity of CBAs
It has been two months since the Cabinet instructed the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) to prepare Cost and Benefit Analysis (CBA) on effects of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on two areas of concern that are National Interest and Bumi and SME.
Due to unfulfilled promises by Secretary General of MITI on the promised structured engagement and the conduct of the CBAs, Bantah TPPA had requested and was granted a meeting with MITI minister on 4th October.
We have again conveyed our views to MITI minister on the gravity of questionable impartiality and capabilities of the parties involved in carrying out the CBA studies. These studies are of great importance to the nation and her people. Their integrity and neutrality must not be compromised.
The Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) whom is tasked with the preparation of the CBA on National Interest has put its external consultant, Firdaus Rosli who had openly published an article in support of the TPPA, in charge of the studies. While Bantah respects his personal liberty in expressing his support of the TPPA, Bantah questions the impartiality behind his appointment by ISIS.
Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputra (TERAJU) whom is tasked with the preparation of the CBA on Bumi and SME had appointed the World Trade Institute (WTI) consultants and fellow, well-known for being the lobbyist for free trade and is said to be pro-TPPA.
Bantah also questions the seriousness of these appointed consultants in conducting the studies. In the National Interest questionnaires issued by ISIS to “selected stakeholders”, Bantah finds that not only do those questionnaires not follow international standards of quantitative and qualitative research; they are in fact too simplistic and unfocused. This is evident in the fact that one of the questions asks on whether the TPP is “beneficial or harmful to China’s interest”.
Furthermore, in the only occasion Bantah was called for a discussion with one of the parties on the CBA, we realised that it did not yet have any substantive TPPA texts or Malaysia’s latest negotiation positions as a basis to undertake their studies. Bantah finds this utterly inconceivable.
It is also apparent from the fact that only “selected stakeholders” are consulted, as if someone is trying to do a divide and rule amongst the stakeholders and selecting parties whom are not well verse on the TPPA. MITI needs to appreciate the fact that the TPP concerns the people of all backgrounds and creed. MITI should be talking closely to all stakeholders to get the most out of their so-called “engagement” exercise.
Bantah’s proposed terms of reference (TOR) that was submitted to MITI in our meeting with Secretary General on 16th August; was also not made available to the CBA consultants. Comparatively having seen MITIs TOR provided by the Minister on 3rd October 2013, Bantah’s TOR is more detailed and addresses real concerns of the people. This is because Bantah is formed of industry players, academicians, economists, students, professional service providers and other interested parties and Bantah had taken the initiative to engage with them prior to the preparation of our proposed TOR.
Bantah was informed that the CBAs have already now gone into their sixth week of studies after being commissioned. To date, no ‘issue-based or text-based’ discussions have been held with any of Bantah coalition members. We were also told that they were given a 12-week time frame. Realistically, the time given is too short to carry out a proper CBA.
Having highlighted these worrying situations to the MITI minister, Bantah was informed that these CBAs are just “preliminary” and that there will be more detailed CBAs prepared after this. Given the fact that TPPA leaders have issued press statements that they are looking to finalise the TPPA negotiations by year end, Bantah doubts these more detailed CBAs will materialise.
The ball is in MITI’s court
MITI Secretary-General Datuk Rebecca Sta Maria, on 10th October, responded to Bantah’s request for their promises to be fulfilled, saying the ball is in our court. Bantah finds this statement baseless and misrepresenting the truth.
MITI knows very well Bantah’s area of concerns. Bantah’s 75 redlines, supplemented by our List of Issues and Concerns had been submitted to MITI several times. Not only to MITI but also to the Prime Minister, to the Cabinet Ministers as well as to the media.
Upon Datuk Rebecca’s request, Bantah had also submitted a proposal on how the engagement could be conducted, but we have received no comment or counter-proposal from MITI until her press release. The ball is in fact in MITI’s court.
The tobacco group example by Datuk Rebecca is very compelling and is in-line with Bantah proposal of structured engagement with others Ministries. The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) is very much a member of Bantah TPPA. That ‘half-day’ discussion had assisted and enabled MITI to put up Malaysia’s proposals for a “carve-out” on tobacco from the TPPA. That is because all Bantah’s coalition members are well prepared and well-researched. We request for more such “half-days” on other areas of concerns and issues.
It must be emphasised that Bantah does not represent the special interests of any specific group. Bantah represents the broad interest of the people of Malaysia – both the rakyat as well as the business communities.
Post-Brunei Negotiation Meeting
The TPPA’s 19th negotiation meeting that took place in Brunei on 22nd-23rd August was declared to be the last formal negotiation round. There are no more official avenues for the stakeholders of all negotiating countries to air their concerns and views.
The current trend is worrying. The US is consistent on wanting to conclude the negotiations by year end. The intersessional meetings are conducted in secret and on an accelerated basis.
Bantah was informed that the Intellectual Property (IP) team had recently met in Mexico and soon they will meet again in Japan. Also recently, the chief negotiators had met in Washington DC and last week, TPPA country ministers had met in Bali.
This shows a trend and an attempt to fast-track the negotiations. Malaysian negotiation team may be conceding to provisions demanded by the US even as the CBAs are being undertaken. In a recent statement by …; it was mentioned that the negotiation is at the state of “established pathways on all outstanding issues as well as potential packages and trade offs to be discussed in a general term”. Bantah urge the government to declare which redlines to be traded off.
In Bali, the Prime Minister had said that the end of the year deadline is only on best endeavour basis, and should there be reasons to extend, Malaysia will seek extension, and will not abide blindly to demands. The Prime Minister also highlighted that Malaysia has her sensitivities and will not sacrifice her national interest. We applaud the Prime Minister’s position and we hope he will uphold his commitment.
1. Bantah wants to see sincerity in the engagement with MITI. This means MITI will have to involve all stakeholders in a structured engagement process and not on a piece-meal basis various issues highlighted by Bantah. In the process, MITI must also disclose Malaysia’s positions in closed sessions on specific issues.
2. Bantah calls for MITI to replace current CBA consultants with independent, more credible and experienced consultants with international or national recognition and to form a CBA committee that includes Bantah members and other stakeholders from the industries, academicians, economists and professional service providers as promised. And the selection of these consultants and stakeholders must be transparent. Ample time should be given for the preparation and approval of the CBAs and they should not be constrained with the fast-track attempts by some parties. Bantah advise MITI that there should only be one CBA; with extension of time line, wider and deeper scope of studies as propose by Bantah and comprising of credible committees of expert.
3. Bantah would remind MITI that any rushed and improper disclosure to the Cabinet and the government ministries and unmet promises to the rakyat with regard to the TPPA tantamount to false representations and these should not be condoned.
CHAIRMAN OF BANTAH TPPA