The TPPA is simply inevitable. Us “choosing” to join is really a no – brainer, and insofar as the pros and cons go, the pros completely outweigh the cons. In fact, I believe we should have been negotiating a treaty of this sort two decades ago.
However this treaty does raise the important question of the country’s readiness to compete in a free market of unequal partners. Should we be put on an even playing field with some of our competitors, we will not be able to stand the competition. Therefore we need to focus on having an edge. The TPPA gives us one.
Malaysia has succumbed to the “income trap”. As a nation we are languishing in mediocrity when it comes to our aspirations of becoming a high-income economy. The main factor holding us back today is education, which used to be one of our core strengths, and today is only a shadow of what it used to be.
The TPPA will force us to be more competitive and to drop a lot of our own restrictive practices, our own protectionism, which is unfortunately a self-destructive tool, will also be challenged by the TPPA. On many counts we need to improve legislatively, technically, structurally and qualitatively in our own market. The only downside to this will be what I would call an internal cleansing of inefficient firms, companies, products and the like. There is an upside however, in that as we grow qualitatively, the TPPA will also, at one point, prepare us for the EU. For example – we cannot sell cheaper than China. Nor can we out-produce them. There is only one way, and that way is up – meaning we need to provide a higher quality. Malaysian products and services have to be benchmarked in an open playing field within the TPPA. There is no better way to grow.
Joining the TPPA has been said to bring us a GDP growth of US$211 billion over 10 years. Should Malaysia decide not to ratify it, we stand to incur a cumulative GDP loss of US$16 billion over 10 years. Non-participation might also negatively impact the Malaysia-US relations.
To be afraid of the TPPA is to be afraid of the world. Hong Kong and Dubai are classic examples of city-states that, out of pure necessity, have begun to be better builders of bridges than of walls. Malaysia, if at all, has just added more restrictions than less. We cannot legislate ourselves out of this reality. The TPPA is not a choice, not if we are going to be part of the global village.