KUALA LUMPUR - The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) denied claims that briefing sessions conducted on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was a mere propaganda exercise.
Since the final TPPA text was made available in the public domain on Nov 5 2015, MITI along with other ministries and government agencies have ramped up their efforts in conducting briefing and dialogue sessions to various groups to help improve their understanding of the trade agreement.
On Dec 23, two more briefing sessions were held - one with a group of 500 land surveyors from all over the country and another with a group of 300 student leaders from 10 public universities and 15 private universities across Malaysia.
"During both sessions, I provided explainations on TPPA, including its pros and cons, as well as responded to criticisms raised towards it. About 12 questions were asked by the group of land surveyors while the session with student leaders attracted around 20 questions," said MITI Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed in a statement Thursday.
He was responding to a report by a news portal that quoted Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago who described the briefing sessions by the Ministry on TPPA as a mere propaganda exercise.
In the report, Charles claimed that the briefings were held with people who had no idea of what the agreement was all about and have not read it.
He also said that despite the briefing sessions, MITI has not responded to the criticisms raised.
Mustapa denied Charles' claim and said questions raised at the briefing session on Wednesday, which focused on specific issues impacting them and other general issues, were fairly balanced - some were supportive while some were against it.
Some of the issues raised were similar to those raised by Charles and other opponents of the trade pact.
"(Hence), how can Charles claim the surveyors and student leaders know nothing about the TPP," asked the minister.
The responses towards the questions have also been uploaded on the MITI website, said Mustapa.
In fact, there have been more organisations seeking clarifications from MITI on numerous TPPA-related issues and this clearly showed that the ministry's engagements were not merely a propaganda exercise.
Mustapa said Charles was very unbalanced and unfair in his views that everything was wrong with the trade pact and nothing was right.
"Based on my engagements with various groups, many are knowledgeable and know about the TPP and to accuse them of ignorance is simply unfair and demeaning.
"At every presentation, I highlighted all the criticisms against TPP, including the ones raised by YB Charles and provided my responses to those criticisms," said Mustapa.
He said all of his presentations have been followed by extensive dialogue sessions?.
"We are aware that there are benefits and costs associated with the TPPA, but in our opinion the benefits outweigh the costs. This is the message that we will continue to push through during our public engagement," he added.
Mustapa, however, acknowledged that many more engagements and outreach programmes need to be conducted to enhance public understanding of the TPPA, its benefits and challenges.
MITI and the relevant agencies are committed to step up engagements in January 2016, he added.