January 21, 2018

On 20 March, 2014 Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Asia organized a conference about the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in cooperation with the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU Hanoi (USSH-H). Participants of six different counties, such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand and the US discussed about the opportunities and challenges for Vietnam and ASEAN by entering the TPP.

The first speaker Mr. Ngo Chung Khan of the Ministry of Industry and Trade held a speech about the TPP and its impacts on Vietnam. In his opinion it can give Vietnam better access to the Canadian and Mexican markets and it is helpful for increasing foreign investment, it would be an opportunity but also a challenge. Prof. Christoph Scherrer from Germany, University of Kassel, talked about the international division of labour in theory and the question if prosperity for all would be possible. He recommended that Vietnam keeps its own policy space and develops a long term strategic plan, not only focussing on garment but also other, more sustainable industries. He also set the question if Vietnam really needs the TPP as he sees the danger that this will limit Vietnam’s intellectual property rights.

Dr Deborah K. Elms from Singapore was advertising the TPP as a big advantage; she focussed on its broadness because it covers markets for all goods and also its deepness. According to her, the companies would move to Vietnam if it joins TPP as they wanted to benefit from this. In contrast to that, Dr. Albert Scharenberg, the Co-Director of RLS New York, criticised the US Trade strategies and gave some background information about the NAFTA and WTO. He pointed out the dangers about the secrecy of TPP negotiations, the influence of lobbyism and predicted that the governments will lose their power to the corporations. Especially, the so called Investor-State Dispute Settlements which could lead to billions of USD penalties for governments without being settled via existing national rule of law mechanisms can be described as scandalous in this context.

In the afternoon, Prof. Jane Kelsey from New Zealand warned about the impacts of TPP ‘behind the boarder’ and the enforcement by other TPP governments and foreign investors. She clearly deconstructed the ofted quoted ‘advantage’ of increasing garment exports to the US because Vietnam won’t be able to fulfil the ‘yarn forward’ rule. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoang Phuoc Hiep was also concerned about the secrecy of the TPP negotiations and the fact of increased transparency requirements for Vietnam but it may become worse without joining TPP according to him. Dr. Doan Duy Khung requested Vietnam to analyse why other countries move on much faster.

The perspective of Myanmar and its economic integration into ASEAN was illustrated by Mrs. Tin Tin Htwe. As the last speaker, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pham Quang Minh, the Vice Rector of USSH, compared the TPP with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). He analysed the reasons of some ASEAN countries not to join the TPP.

The conference did benefit of the diversity of speakers, their different opinions and perspectives. A lot of information was given to the participants that leaded to many interesting and exciting discussions. The discourse about TPP should definitely be continued.

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