Tariffs are often established with the goal of protecting industries from outside competition, but in practice they prevent consumers from access to lower prices and lead to widespread market inefficiency. A recent study from Malaysia-based Atlas Network partner Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Catalysing Reforms in Governance,” explains why the lowered tariffs, government transparency, and anti-corruption measures of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will bring greater economic growth and prosperity.
“Malaysia has signed twelve bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements,” the IDEAS study points out. “These trade agreements have contributed to the lowering of tariff barriers and opened greater market access for Malaysian exports to other countries, and at the same time helped cut costs through reduction of customs duties and removal of certain regulations. These agreements however have not significantly addressed non-tariff measures including those that are caused by structural problems in governance.”
The TPPA not only lowers tariffs still further among the 12 signatory countries, the study explains, it also includes requirements for structural reforms that allow greater public scrutiny over government operations and subjects public officials to a stricter rule of law.
“Chapter 26 of the agreement outlines disciplines and measures that member countries have to adopt to strengthen their transparency and anti-corruption regimes such as ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which prevents the offering of undue advantages, including non-pecuniary advantages, t public officials and, ensures effective identification and management of conflict of interests including asset declaration,” the IDEAS study explains. “To date, non-pecuniary advantages given to or solicited by public officials are not considered offences and the existing asset declaration regime and governance measures are not comprehensive enough to identify and manage these types of conflicts of interest effectively.”
IDEAS released the study, which was funded in part through Atlas Network’s Liberating Asian Enterprise project, to the media with a press release and a document providing answers to frequently asked questions. On the day of the parliamentary debate over TPPA, the IDEAS team distributed 180 physical copies of the study to members of parliament, ministers, special officers, the secretary general, and members of the media. IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan appeared on Bloomberg TV Malaysia and the radio talk show “The Breakfast Grille,” in addition to newspaper coverage. Despite significant opposition, Malaysia became a TPPA signatory soon after the IDEAS study release.
“While the TPPA may not be an ideal agreement, the socio-political benefits outweigh the shortcomings,” the IDEAS study concludes. “The agreement is a step in the right direction in terms of economic and socio-political reform and to jump-start the currently stalled reform in the country.”
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