Text of TPPA to be made public: Mustapa

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 21, 2014): The draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will be released to enable detailed scrutiny and public debate before any final agreement is signed, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

"When everything is agreed, the text will be made available for our cost-benefit analysis (CBA) study, as well as for public viewing and scrutiny. It will also be debated in the parliament," Mustapa told the reporters in a TPPA media briefing here yesterday.

Mustapa said the release of the TPPA text is unprecedented in Malaysia, as all the trade agreements that have been signed in the past have not had to go through parliament process and public scrutiny.

"It is not mandatory for us to do that. But it is important (this time), because the TPPA will affect every Malaysian and it involves a lot of public interest," he explained.

It was reported that in 2009, parties to the TPPA talks agreed that the text of the agreement would not be released until the talks were concluded, and all documents, other than the text, would be held in confidence until four years after the agreement came into force, or the last round of negotiations if the agreement was not concluded.

Meanwhile, Mustapa said the interim report of a CBA study on Malaysia's participation, in the TPPA based on information available so far, is near completion and will be presented to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) within a month.

"They are almost there. I was told that they're making some further refinements to the report," he said.

The interim report is being done by the Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (Teraju) and Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis), which will focus on the concerns of small-medium enterprise (SME) and bumiputras, and national interest issues.

In response to whether the interim report will be published for public consumption, Mustapa said "we are not too sure."

"We have not come to that yet and we will sort it out when the time comes. The interim report is based on certain assumptions and it might not be totally correct," he replied.

On another note, Mustapa said eight out of the 29 chapters under the TPPA have been finalised, including SME's cooperation and capacity building, regulatory coherence, competitiveness and business facilitation. The remaining 21 chapters however have outstanding issues that are still being negotiated.

On that, Mustapa stressed the importance of Malaysia to enjoy the first-mover advantage for being part of the TPP, which he described as a "modern, high quality and 21st century agreement".

"In our view, if we are not part of it, we might miss the opportunity to participate in crafting and drafting of future trade rules, as well as shaping global trade agenda," he said.

The briefing yesterday is part of measures by Miti to update the public and stakeholders on TPP negotiations in the run-up to the meeting of TPP ministers in Singapore from Feb 22 till 25 2014 which will be attended by Mustapa.

"Our wish list is to address our concerns on providing enough carve-out (exemptions), safeguard and flexibility in the agreement. If those concerns are addressed sufficiently, we will come out smiling. But if it is not, then it's not easy to finalise anything," he said.

Mustapa has also engaged with the non-governmental organisations, industry representatives and selected individuals last Friday, before he met with the Parliamentary Caucus two days ago and the media yesterday.