Despite eagerness, M'sia may not be ready for TPPA

Hazlan Zakaria

Modified 13 Jan 2016, 12:55 am

COMMENT While the Malaysian government is actively seeking to convince the citizens that it is better for Malaysia to be in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) than not, as things stand, it may be authorities themselves that are not yet ready to take on the complicated trade pact.

The first indicator is perhaps our government's rather lax attitude, enforcement and standards when it comes to copyright and intellectual property laws.

This can probably be seen in the recent tiff over the unauthorised use of a clip from a Malaysian film by none other than the TPPA Malaysia Facebook page.

The administrators of the page pointed out that their use of the clip is allowed under current Malaysian copyright laws for non-commercial fair use, as well as under provisions for government usage of materials for public interest projects.

However, the fact that they did not even attempt to contact the film producers before using the clip shows a certain laxness in attitude.

Intellectual property is a big thing in the United States, the prime mover of the trade agreement, and amendments to local laws to be in line with such stringent intellectual property laws will be one of the requirements of the TPPA.

While the unauthorised use of the clip by the TPPA Malaysia Facebook page may pass muster under current laws, things may be a bit more complicated once we have to adopt American or Western intellectual property standards.

I wonder if our authorities, with their perceived laxness in this matter, can cope with it? After all, it was only last year that the education authorities were caught in a bind for using stories from Malaysian authors without approval or paying royalties.

Cavalier attitude

Similarly, some artworks used in local stamps were found to have been plagiarised, while a recent national award-winning advertising entry has been embroiled in another plagiarism allegation .

Taken in general, these incidents show a level of worry over what other issues we may have with copyright infringement.

With our authorities being lax about laws and having cavalier attitude towards copyright infringement may land them in hot water once TPPA is active, and the party to be at the receiving end of intellectual property suits may very well be our government itself.

As critics have warned, upgrading our laws to Western standards may lead to problems for our companies and indeed, for the authorities.

Similarly, when it comes to human rights, the TPPA will require a similar amalgamation of legal standards that may see Malaysia, which is already in the lower rungs of several global reports in that area, on the losing end again.

And I guess once we have to update our laws when it comes to illegal outflows and corruption, we may even see various ministers and corporate figures running for the boondocks and the hills.

More so, as has been continuously pointed out by economist Jomo K Sundram, Malaysian trade negotiators may not be subtle enough to negotiate with the proper nuances to ensure that our interests are truly protected beyond the black-and-white.

Jomo also noted studies that questioned the utility of Malaysia joining the TPPA as they showed no increased benefit either way.

The economist had argued at a recent forum that just an increase in trade alone that TPPA is supposed to bring may not bring immediate returns, especially with member nations having to cope with requirements.

Thus, we may wonder why our government is so eager to sign away our trading independence and latch us onto this uncertain platform, which critics have said to be more of a life raft of the US to survive the rising tide of China's economy, than anything else.

This is especially so when our government may find itself at the losing end of the game. Or maybe, as the authorities claim, there are benefits that the TPPA critics are not seeing, or perhaps there is someone, somewhere, getting something that we know not…

HAZLAN ZAKARIA is a member of the Malaysiakini Team.