TPPA Part 1 – Mustapa Mohamed and MITI should be praised for their public engagements

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on the 14th January, 2016

TPPA Part 1 – Mustapa Mohamed and MITI should be praised for their public engagements

On Tuesday, 12th of January, I, together with my colleagues from parliament on both sides of the political aisle, attended a special briefing arranged by Minister of Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed, and his team at MITI on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). As far as I know, this was the first time since the 13th general election that a Minister had arranged for a bipartisan briefing for all MPs for a motion or a bill which we would vote on in parliament.[1]

The Minister fielded questions from all MPs during the plenary session. He also said that he would propose that a vote be taken on the TPPA during the special parliamentary debate that will take place on the 26th and 27th of January, 2016. He should be commended for organizing this special session especially since the TPPA does not require legislative approval in order to be passed. This special parliamentary session will allow MPs from both sides of the aisle to raise important questions and concerns surrounding the TPPA, of which there are many.

After the plenary session, MPs were invited to choose from one of the following four workshops on hot-topic items: “Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines, Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), Government Procurement (GP) and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and Market Access / Labour / Environment”. I attended the workshop on Market Access / Labour / Environment and I commend the civil servants from MITI and other Ministries for their willingness to answer all of the questions posed to them by MPs from both sides. Their answers were comprehensive and showed a deep familiarity with the issues at hand.

At the same time, the Ministry should be commended for giving public access to the materials associated with the TPPA. This was the first time that two studies – the PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) and the Institute of Strategic and International Studies’ (ISIS) National Impact Assessment (NIA) – were commissioned to evaluate the impact of the TPPA. While these two studies painted a largely positive picture of the TPPA, they also highlighted areas of concern as well as some negative impact that would arise as a result of the TPPA. Both studies were in English but the Ministry recently made available a Bahasa Malaysia (BM) version which is a summary of both studies. The Final Text of the TPPA was also printed for all the MPs and distributed on the final day of the parliamentary session last year (16 volumes in total). Copies of the CBA and the NIA were also given to MPs. A BM summary of the TPPA final text was distributed to MPs on Tuesday. All of this information is available for download from the MITI website on the TPPA.[2] Other relevant information, including past presentations and dialogue sessions conducted by MITI can also be found on this website.

While I have still many existing concerns about the TPPA, which I will raise in a following statement, Mustapa Mohamed and his team at MITI should be commended for their efforts in public engagement, not just with MPs, but also with state governments, industry groups as well as NGO representatives. It is still a learning process especially for the civil servants, in terms of public outreach, but this is a good lesson and a good benchmark for the government moving forward. Such engagements must continue as part of the process of implementing the TPPA, assuming it receives majority support in the upcoming special parliamentary session on the 26th and 27th of January.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] I had previously attended a bipartisan briefing on the revamp of the National Service that was arranged by the Ministry of Defense. But this was not in connection with any bill or motion which needed to be passed in parliament.