Time to reflect on TPP enthusiasm

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Arno Maierbrugger
By Arno Maierbrugger

The 19th talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement held in Brunei last week have put the nation into the global spotlight once more, but the talks seem not to have achieved their purported results. It neither were the “final” talks on the controversial TPP agreement, as some government representatives suggested, nor has it brought the 12 negotiating countries closer to a resolution.

On the contrary, the whole TPP framework has been hit by Malaysia’s statement that it will undertake a series of cost-benefit studies to determine whether the TPP is really advantageous for the country, and more and more people, even high ranking politicians, say it’s not.

The highest-level opposition so far against the TPP came from no less a figure than Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who clearly said that Malaysia should pull out of the TPP negotiations as they were “nothing but a tool for the US to extend their hegemony” in the region and would strip off not only Malaysia’s, but also other involved countries’ ability to implement their own economic policies.

Mahathir, despite always being a sharp critic of the US during his term as prime minister, should know. While no part of the draft TPP agreement has been released to the public yet, Mahathir said he has seen sections of the proposed text and came to the conclusion that, “If I am asked if we need the TPP, I say we don’t.”

Brunei was one of the first nations to take up negotiations over the TPP, but it is not even clear what the benefits for the small Sultanate would be, especially when Malaysia, one of its most important trading partners, drops out, which it highly likely will.

The almost exclusive export good of Brunei is oil, and almost all of its oil goes to Japan and Korea, and the TPP won’t change much here. There are not many large US companies active in Brunei and so the impact of freer trade would be minimal. Small and medium businesses in Brunei are already benefiting from other regional trade agreements and will benefit even more when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into effect.

Furthermore, in the TPP agreement are rules championed by the US that give corporations of the TPP member states virtually unlimited rights and would allow them to sue governments over laws and policies that might reduce their profits.

This would be an attack on autarkic policies of a nation, and it is not sure if the Sultanate would really like that to occur.

Disputes with investors which occasionally happen even in Brunei would not be cases for local settlement or arbitration anymore, but such disputes would be settled at an international commission where the host country is just one party.

This could lead to the effect that a TPP member state would be forced to alter standards, for example environmental regulations, workers protection or intellectual property rights, and could be sued for “damages”.

That the benefits of a TPP agreement outweigh all these problematic clauses cannot be clearly said, but Malaysia is doubting it for a reason. This might be a wake-up call for Brunei to rethink its stance.

Is there enough information on the TPP for the public? Should Brunei enter the agreement? Will the benefits outweigh the possible disadvantages? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor

This comment is part of Inside Investor’s weekly column series in Brunei’s leading newspaper Brunei Times and is published every Monday.

brunei_times_logo

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Arno Maierbrugger

The 19th talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement held in Brunei last week have put the nation into the global spotlight once more, but the talks seem not to have achieved their purported results. It neither were the “final” talks on the controversial TPP agreement, as some government representatives suggested, nor has it brought the 12 negotiating countries closer to a resolution.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Arno Maierbrugger
By Arno Maierbrugger

The 19th talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement held in Brunei last week have put the nation into the global spotlight once more, but the talks seem not to have achieved their purported results. It neither were the “final” talks on the controversial TPP agreement, as some government representatives suggested, nor has it brought the 12 negotiating countries closer to a resolution.

On the contrary, the whole TPP framework has been hit by Malaysia’s statement that it will undertake a series of cost-benefit studies to determine whether the TPP is really advantageous for the country, and more and more people, even high ranking politicians, say it’s not.

The highest-level opposition so far against the TPP came from no less a figure than Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who clearly said that Malaysia should pull out of the TPP negotiations as they were “nothing but a tool for the US to extend their hegemony” in the region and would strip off not only Malaysia’s, but also other involved countries’ ability to implement their own economic policies.

Mahathir, despite always being a sharp critic of the US during his term as prime minister, should know. While no part of the draft TPP agreement has been released to the public yet, Mahathir said he has seen sections of the proposed text and came to the conclusion that, “If I am asked if we need the TPP, I say we don’t.”

Brunei was one of the first nations to take up negotiations over the TPP, but it is not even clear what the benefits for the small Sultanate would be, especially when Malaysia, one of its most important trading partners, drops out, which it highly likely will.

The almost exclusive export good of Brunei is oil, and almost all of its oil goes to Japan and Korea, and the TPP won’t change much here. There are not many large US companies active in Brunei and so the impact of freer trade would be minimal. Small and medium businesses in Brunei are already benefiting from other regional trade agreements and will benefit even more when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into effect.

Furthermore, in the TPP agreement are rules championed by the US that give corporations of the TPP member states virtually unlimited rights and would allow them to sue governments over laws and policies that might reduce their profits.

This would be an attack on autarkic policies of a nation, and it is not sure if the Sultanate would really like that to occur.

Disputes with investors which occasionally happen even in Brunei would not be cases for local settlement or arbitration anymore, but such disputes would be settled at an international commission where the host country is just one party.

This could lead to the effect that a TPP member state would be forced to alter standards, for example environmental regulations, workers protection or intellectual property rights, and could be sued for “damages”.

That the benefits of a TPP agreement outweigh all these problematic clauses cannot be clearly said, but Malaysia is doubting it for a reason. This might be a wake-up call for Brunei to rethink its stance.

Is there enough information on the TPP for the public? Should Brunei enter the agreement? Will the benefits outweigh the possible disadvantages? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor

This comment is part of Inside Investor’s weekly column series in Brunei’s leading newspaper Brunei Times and is published every Monday.

brunei_times_logo

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid