Lack of clarity and info on TPP a major concern: Page 2 of 3

Lack of clarity and info on TPP a major concern: Page 2 of 3Freer trade, better opportunities? 

In a counterpoint to issues raised by the anti-TPP team, Dr James Alin from the pro-TPP team noted that freer trade of products, especially electronics, would benefit the consumer, enabling access to cheaper prices.
 
“It won’t be as cheap as parallel imports but cheaper and fairer to the people who created the technology and innovations in the market. By signing free trade agreements like the TPP, we can enable freer trading conditions that would benefit not just producers but consumers as well,” said the director of insight and brand management company Rapidea.
 
Alin added that it was also incorrect to talk about the TPP as levelling the playing field, noting that trade was “not a zero-sum game” but that it would enable increased competition in the region.
 
Concurring with Alin’s points, teammate and Sabah West Coast Entrepreneur Network Association (SEA) chairman Darwin Tan said the TPP would help competitiveness and spur innovation.
 
“Right now, only certain people can get what they want. Startups don’t have the chance for equitable access to market participation,” he said, adding the opportunities unlocked by the TPP would create more jobs for technoprenuers in the digital economy.
 
“We should see this as an opportunity to fight for the best, not bound by local but international agreements. By signing the TPP we would be destroying the monopolisation of certain sectors in the country and provide our entrepreneurs, especially in East Malaysia, with a chance to compete,” he added.
 
Lack of clarity and info on TPP a major concern: Page 2 of 3Drilling down to the negative impact of TPP’s provisions on innovation, Khairul Yusof, coordinator of Sinar Project, focused his attention on the potential fallout of tougher pricing infringement for digital tools.
 
Sinar Project is an initiative using open technology and applications to systematically make important information public and more accessible to the Malaysian people.
 
Khairul noted that in relation to software, the issue is not about piracy that a chunk of the TPP is aimed at addressing, but its effect on innovation in other industries.
 
“Trying to curb piracy in such broad terms is being used to stifle innovation. The technology industry is built for the most part on the foundation of reverse engineering, breaking down an existing product to make it better,” he said.
 
Khairul also addressed the point made about freer trade enabling a better playing field for local entrepreneurs, that it would stifle competition instead of enabling it.
 
“Entrepreneurs right now don’t need to buy software to start their company of product. They can copy open source freely and legally. Restrictions in the TPP would have import on open source software and result in higher costs because local layers will be forced to pay more to use the software,” he said.
 
He also pointed out that local players would be at a disadvantage going up against big players such as Apple and their large cache of technology patents. In addition, consumers could expect high charges should service providers be charged with monitoring and tracking data flow to police copyright infringements.
 
“They’d have to invest in infrastructure and resources. Say that it’s RM50 per user, it’d be an additional RM500 million just to cover piracy and deal with the law,” he said.
 
However, despite what is at stake with the fine print of the TPP, DNA’s Asohan in closing noted that the agreement only began with three countries involved.
 
“Fact is, everybody wants in and Malaysia lobbied to join back in 2010 and Japan will be joining this year. Why?” he said.
 
He added that free trade would open up opportunities for business in many sectors and industry verticals.
 
“There will be sectors that would be negatively affected, for in trade there will be losers, but it’s about whether as a whole, national economies would benefit. Startups complain that they can’t get into certain sectors or are closed from opportunities in sectors dominated by government-linked companies and the TPP can help get rid of some of the unfair trade practices happening within our own economies,” he said.
 
Asohan noted that lack of information aside, Malaysia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) has engaged with stakeholders and the public, albeit they may not have done enough.
 
In addition, the National ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom) has been a strong proponent of the TPP, believing it would open up opportunities for its members.
 
“It is important to point out that almost all the organisations and agencies involved in the digital economy in the country are either in support or are adopting a wait-and-see approach. Very few are saying 'no' outright,” he said.
 
At the end of the debate, which was hosted at the Pacific Sutera Hotel in Kota Kinabalu, votes were casted by attendees and the anti-TPP team was declared victorious, garnering 16 votes to the pro-TPP team’s 13.

The debate was moderated by Jeremy Malcolm, a senior policy officer at Consumers International, who in closing said: “I think that we have all certainly been informed and hopefully come away with new perspectives on the issues. We wish the negotiators all the best in the on-going negotiations.”
 
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