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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TPPA inevitable even if Sabah autonomous

KOTA KINABALU - Multi-lateral trade pacts are always difficult to negotiate. It took super power America ten years to get 11 other countries on board. Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said.

Some say that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is an American agenda to re-assert American leadership over the Trans-Pacific economies to counter the growing China influence he said.

But, he added, unlike what is portrayed by Kota Kinabalu member of parliament Jimmy Wong to join TPPA is not to choose between America and China.

“Malaysia, like the other nine members of ASEAN, is already covered by the China-Asean Free Trade Area (China-AFTA) that took effect in 2010.

“The healthy trade (RM210 billion in 2014) between Malaysia and China will not be affected by TPPA. Our own free trade pact, the Asean FTA, took effect in 1992. Yong said in a statement yesterday.

He added since 1992 trade tariffs among Asean countries (and ever since 2010 with China, India and Japan) have been on a downward trend. 90% of trade is now zero-rated.

" Sabah, as part of Malaysia, already has free trade pacts with our major trading partners. This is good because the single, biggest economic constraint facing Sabah is the smallness of our market.

“That is why we have BIMP-East Asean Growth Area with a population of 57 million. Trade pacts give us market access which we otherwise would not have.

“When TPPA came along, no small country can ignore it. Each and every country fought hard to get the best possible deal. Nobody wins all or loses all. What would Sabah do if Sabah had full autonomy on international trade? Would Sabah opt out of the TPPA?” said Yong who is a former chief minister.

He further pointed out that TPPA have tough provisions on financial services, dispute settlement, environment and labour standards, protection of intellectual property, anti-corruption and other matters that might be challenging for some sectors of our economy.

“Sabah's biggest export item, which is also the Sabah government's biggest revenue earner, palm oil, is not covered by any trade agreement with America, the world's biggest economy.

“TPPA provides for the gradual abolition of import tariffs of palm oil into America, Canada, Peru and Mexico, the last four TPPA countries that still impose duties on palm oil at up to 11% (America 6%).

“On the other hand, it will be several more years before, Indonesia, our biggest palm oil competitor, can join TPPA. Hence, Sabah's palm oil has a headway to penetrate TPPA markets before Indonesia, “ he said.

Yong further said thatPalm oil was Sabah's saviour during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. The palm oil sector continues to support other sectors of the Sabah economy with its multiplier effects.

TPPA will benefit this sector. These facts are completely opposite of what the MP for Kota Kinabalu said,” he said.

Yong added It was to be expected that both opposition and ruling party MPs dutifully voted according to party lines on the TPPA bill in Parliament.

“But it is important that our MPs understand what they are voting for or against.”

- The Borneo Post.

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