Asia - pacific

Malaysians launch Trans-Pacific pact debate website

Public can voice opinions, concerns on platform visible to lawmakers before regional trade pact presented to parliament

Malaysians launch Trans-Pacific pact debate website

Kuala Lumpur

By P Prem Kumar


 Organizations opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have created an online debate platform for Malaysians to deliberate on the advantages and disadvantages of the trade pact.

The launch of on Wednesday came five weeks before the final agreement – a regional trade pact with the United States – is presented to Malaysia’s parliament to win the approval of lawmakers before its signing.

Dr. Jun-E Tan, the website's developer, told a media briefing Wednesday that provides a neutral ground for both sides of the debate to raise arguments backed by facts and figures on how Malaysia and its citizens will be affected by the TPP.

"The website can help our lawmakers to take brighter decisions on the matter, let it be the ruling and opposition parties,” she said. "The bi-partisan web page will also enable every contributor to take a stand on TPPA [TPP Agreement] – pro, neutral or against – to show a count to the parliamentarians.”

Tan underlined that the website -- a non-profit initiative and free to use -- is the first to enable wide civil society participation in discussions on the pact, which has drawn opposition from anti-TPP movements in the country.

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed is slated to table the motion on Jan. 26, over a week before the scheduled TPP signing ceremony in New Zealand on Feb. 4.

The deal was negotiated between 12 countries – the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei – representing more than 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

The world's largest economy, China, has initiated a counter Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), however, between ten Southeast Asian countries and Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Two cost-benefit analyses will be present alongside the final agreement's draft to Malaysia’s parliament.

When signed, the TPP is expected to open up a market with a population of 800 million and a gross domestic product worth $27.5 trillion to Malaysian companies.

The meteoric emergence of anti-TPP movements in the country has battered effort to justify the agreement's benefit to the general public as well as to the Malaysian economy.

The main areas of concern include state-owned enterprises, labor and Bumiputera rights -- privileges granted to ethnic Malays considered economically weaker than the minority ethnic Chinese.

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