October 1, 2006
So much speculation about the US-Malaysia FTA and so little conversation in mainstream media. Isn’t that simply preposterous? The way I see it, there are 3 camps at the moment.
1. The KJ/NGO Crowd
I have to apologise to the NGOs for shoving them into the same category as Mr. KJ. Demeaning as the association is with our Fly-the-petition-in-Condoleeza-Rice’s-face Man, this is the crowd that is blatantly anti-FTA with a number of different reasons. You have the NGOs like TWN stating that clearly the US, which is the more developed nation of the two, will stand to greatly benefit economically. A free market and trade will allow more opportunities for large MNCs from the States to come in and drown local trade, while there are few Malaysian brands that can go international, much less penetrate the already saturated American markets. This will eat into the liberty of Malaysia making its own decisions, its jurisdiction lessened greatly because of standards stipulated in the FTA. Of course the KJ crowd willingly rides on these views because to them, (real or believed), the US is the Big Bad Boy who will swoop down to destroy our country. Yes, the Terrible Americans with their Luxury Brands and Jewish Shareholders, McDonalds and Coca-Colas that will secularise our Islamic nation indeed!!!
2. The Friedman Crowd
According to the Friedman principle (Thomas Friedman, author of “The World is Flat”), there is no point evading globalisation because it is bound to take place. You either accept the fact and ride with the tide, or ignore it and be swamped by the wave the size of a tsunami. Okay, so I graphicised it a little, but his point is that it is inevitable for free trade and liberalisation to be the next “in thing”. In order to catch up with the rest of the world, one has to just push it. Go ahead, jump right into the world’s trend. In the process, you will achieve efficiency, adherence to global standards of excellence and encourage a sense of entrepreneurial spirit. A free market means the quickest, fittest, smartest will survive. Let market forces rule, and we’ll be able to play the international game. The American traders of course fall into this category, saying such a pact will strengthen bilateral relations.
3. The Realist Crowd
While the NGO/KJ Crowd and Friedman Crowd are at war with the other, you have the Realist Crowd emerging as the next best thing. They believe that while it is impossible to ignore the reality that free trade and liberalisation will take place, they need to push for certain things to be protected within the country. They want to take apart the rules and regulations and rigorously provide recommendations to the government as to the sections which need to be focused upon and others to be completely left out. Some of the sections that have been debated in several forums recently are on government procurement, and licensing.
I hope for two things: One, that the MITI Ministry will go more public with the trade negotiations, the FTA content being negotiated about, and be transparent about what is decided (as far as possible, of course). Two, that people will take an amount of interest in this subject because it certainly has extremely far reaching implications on the Malaysian economy!!!
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