This meeting was significant as to provide the avenue for Ministers to discuss the way forward on all the outstanding issues. Ministers are expected to table a progress report to the TPP Leaders when they congregate in Bali, Indonesia for the APEC Leaders Summit, 7-8 October 2013.
At the plenary meetings and working dinner on Thursday and Friday, we discussed issues relating to market access on goods, ISDS, cross border services, financial services, temporary entry, government procurement, environment, labour, intellectual property rights and state owned enterprises.
In my interventions, I drew attention to the growing discomfort domestically arising from Malaysia’s participation in the TPP negotiations, the outreach activities that had been undertaken and the concerns raised by the various stakeholders, specifically on the issue of lack of transparency and disclosure of information on the texts being negotiated. I also amplified these concerns during the bilateral meetings with my counterparts from New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Singapore and US and exchanged views on how best to take this forward.
I also led discussions on transparency at a working dinner where it was agreed in principle that while the negotiating text cannot be shared with stakeholders as it is still work in progress, other means to enhance transparency should be explored. After the 19th Round in Brunei, MITI together with various stakeholders will not only chart the path of future engagement but also share Malaysia’s position on issues being discussed with the Parliamentary Caucus, civil society and other interest groups. On market access negotiations relating to Goods, the meeting provided greater transparency on the current offers exchanged between Parties based on the proposed comprehensive liberalisation approach agreed by Leaders in 2011. More engagement was required to better understand each other’s sensitivities in the negotiations and the necessary phasing out periods required. Ministers also agreed it was essential to have an agreement that is aimed at facilitating trade. I expressed the importance of market access for Malaysia, especially for textile, palm oil, tropical fruits and other agro-based products.
On government procurement, I once again stressed that Malaysia had difficulties in this chapter. I emphasised that the necessary exclusions of SMEs and preferences for bumiputera were required for the Government to continue with its socio-economic development goals and affirmative action policy.
I underscored that Malaysia had serious difficulties with the current SOE proposal, which is seen to go beyond the stated objective of creating a level playing field and that it had serious implications to Malaysian SOEs. This concern on SOEs was also shared by some other TPP countries. On IPR, I reiterated our strong position on the issue of access to affordable medicines. On the issue of environment, I reiterated our position to safeguard the States jurisdictions and that the environment and labour chapter should be based on a consultative approach to settle any disputes.
I took the opportunity during the plenary and my bilateral meetings to also impress upon my counterparts that the government had agreed to embark on two additional cost and benefit analysis to ascertain the real benefits that will be accrued to the country from participation in the TPP.
The 19th Round began on 22nd August and before leaving for Kuala Lumpur, I instructed our negotiators to continue to advance our position as mandated by Cabinet and to protect our national interests.
23 August 2013