KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 – These are the latest frequently asked questions related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement available on the Ministry of International Trade and Industry website. The following are questions on agriculture-related issues:
1.Does the TPP restrict the exchange of farm seeds?
Exchange of farm seeds will not be restricted for varieties which are not protected/patented. Exchange of protected seeds or new varieties between farmers within a community will still be allowed, subject to reasonable quantities which will be decided by the Malaysian Plant Variety Board, and as long as they are not for commercial use.
‘Seeds’ refers to new varieties which are equipped with good characteristics than existing varieties in terms of taste, aesthetic values, high yield, retention to pests or diseases, tolerance to extreme conditions, and others. The breeder’s rights, also known as protection of new plant variety, are a form of intellectual property right. \
Such protection will encourage creation and registration of new plant varieties which will benefit farmers. Failing to protect the breeder’s rights will affect the inflow of new varieties into Malaysia, and farmers will be left out from the opportunity of using varieties which can increase yield of production.
2.Can Malaysia continue to impose Halal requirements under the TPPA?
TPP parties recognised that existing Halal requirements can be maintained, while new Halal requirements on the importation of food products can be adopted. This recognition enables Malaysia to continue conducting Halal audits/inspection at overseas establishment, and requesting Halal certificates for importation of food products, as part of Halal assurance programme.
3.Will rice farmers be affected by the influx of cheaper import?
Import of rice from TPP parties represents only 29.1% of our total rice import of 863,358 metric tonnes in 2014, namely, from Vietnam (29%), Australia (0.06%), the United States (0.05%) and Japan (0.005%). Currently, most of our sources for rice are non-TPP parties, such as Thailand, Pakistan, Cambodia and India.
TPP provided exclusion for the current regime for importation and distribution of rice in Malaysia through a sole importer of rice whose role is to secure supply and stabilise price of rice for the consumers. Import of rice from the United States in 2014 represents only 0.05% of Malaysia’s total import of rice. The retail price range for imported rice from the US is between RM3.9 to RM9 per kilogram. In comparison, local rice is currently sold between RM1.65 and RM2.6 per kilogram.
4.What is the impact of TPP on our fisheries industry?
The impact would be positive because the elimination of import duties on all fishery products by all TPP parties will make Malaysia’s seafood export more competitive. Besides, the elimination of import duty by Malaysia will not affect us as much because 89% of fishery products have no import duty.
Most of the key exporting countries of fishery products in the TPP, namely, Japan, Australia, Vietnam have already signed free trade agreements (FTA) with Malaysia either bilaterally or under the ASEAN platform. It is evident that even after signing these FTAs, there is no negative impact to our local fisheries industries.
Malaysia is a strong exporter of fishery products. In 2012 and 2013, 87% of Malaysia’s total export of fishery products was to TPP countries, with the average value of RM1.71 billion. On the other hand, import of such products from TPP countries for the same period was only RM534 million. Malaysia’s fisheries industry is expected to benefit from TPPA.