SINGAPORE, May 20 – Transparency will be the highlight of the second day of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial meeting in the republic, Tuesday. Trade ministers and officials are expected to share transparency practices in their respective countries towards bridging any gaps that have been stalling the conclusion of the TPP agreement. Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the issue of transparency was first brought up at the 19th round of negotiations in Brunei last August and will be discussed for the first time in Singapore.

“There will be a discussion on transparency today. We will see the level of engagement, communications, who to engage with, as different countries have different practices. “There is hardly consultation in some countries, and perhaps there will be a bit more during our bilateral meets,” he told Malaysian journalists on the sidelines of the meeting on Monday. Mustapa said Malaysia will be talking about transparency and its practices at Tuesday’s bilateral meetings. He held bilateral talks with Japan, Australia, Mexico and the United States on Monday and is expected to engage the rest Tuesday.

Market access took centrestage on Monday with Malaysia pushing for better offers in terms of market access in specific sectors in the negotiations. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Trade Minister, Tim Groser said there is a need for the United States-Japan negotiations on market access to be multilateralised to ensure every country gets to know what the others are doing. “On one hand, the smaller countries will get worried that the big guys are going off cooking deals by themselves. On the other hand, the people with some maturity and some experience will know that if they don’t do that, we are not going to get a deal,” he said on Monday.

Groser admitted that market access would likely be the hardest part in the negotiations. “We are dealing with things that have been left aside after 60, 70 years of multilateral negotiations. There are enormous tariff and other barriers in some of these sensitive areas. This negotiation as such was never designed for someone to receive instant gratification. “It’s going to take a little time. But we are absolutely moving forward in my opinion, though not quite there yet,” he said.

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