Europe has nothing to lose
I refer to malaysiakini's report Re-look NEP, urges EC ambassador .
I feel really sorry for European Commission ambassador Thierry Rommel and certainly not because he has done anything foul or against international law, convention and practice when he delivered his keynote address at a luncheon talk in Kuala Lumpur organised by the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
His 'oversight' perhaps was because he spoke honestly and intelligently based on facts, figures and knowledge of countless cases the world over but in a country where politicians cannot accept criticism and are politically fragile when it comes to debating an issue on a level playing field.
But I am certain he has now put himself on the 'sacrificial altar' where for the next few weeks scheming, impatient politicians, political 'wannabes' and internal pressure groups with various vested interests will accuse him of interfering in the domestic policies of the country without first reading his address nor understanding his speech in its entirety.
He can even be expected to be called all kinds of names and alleged to be an operative of the Zionists and racists, or worse still part of a clandestine group out to topple the Malaysian leadership!
It has sad that our leadership is quick to criticise others and call for radical changes in world bodies but cannot tolerate criticism when we are on the receiving end. As far as international trade talks are concerned, Rommel was on cue when he advised Malaysia to re-look its pro- bumiputera policies if it is to attract European investors or make headway into the European single market.
In that respect, he stated what others locally have stated from time immemorial and that it is the NEP's protectionist policies that have caused many of the inefficiencies that dissuade foreign investors from coming to the country.
But he has also been fair in calling for a re-look at the NEP as Malaysia is at a crossroads with regards to its economic future and as also with its relations with the EU and the several international agreements and negotiations which command Malaysia's attention.
I am certain he was referring to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations to promote free trade and lower trade barriers which requires Malaysia, as a key player among emerging economies, to be more pro-active and result-oriented in order to help resolve the impasse at the Doha.
One must remember that areas which are not covered by the WTO like investment, public procurement, competition, trade in certain services and the removal of non-tariff barriers also need to be negotiated soon.
But certainly, I was not surprised to hear that we have yet to commit ourselves to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) which encompass issues such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, migration and human trafficking, legal affairs and cooperation, the fight against corruption, terrorism, transnational crime and the role of civil society.
These issues have been thorns in the Malaysian administration's flesh for quite sometime.
Whatever the result, the truth is that Rommel was kind enough to offer us frank advice and honestly, it is now left to those who are in positions of power to act responsibly for the benefit of the nation.
Or, indeed, if they would rather serve short-term interests for their own political survival and give lip service to the issues of transparency, accountability and good governance?
The truth is that Europe has nothing to lose but Malaysia has.