A New Challenge in 2020

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By Wong Chen

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

As some of you may know, I was recently appointed to take up the post of Chairman of a new Parliament Select Committee, the “International Relations and Trade”. I left the Public Accounts Committee to take up this post, which means I will be shifting my focus next year from domestic issues regarding corruption, wastage and abuse of power to something more international and technical trade matters.

The Committee on International Relations and Trade (CIRT) will start its business in March 2020 when Parliament reconvenes.

Prior to that, I will be spending the months of January and February to refine the terms of reference, secure an operational budget and a secretariat to manage the CIRT. The CIRT will comprise of 6 other Members of Parliament and they are YB June Leow Hsiad Hui (PKR), YB Prabakaran (PKR), YB Oscar Ling Chai Yew (DAP), YB Dato’ Dr. Haji Noor Azmi bin Ghazali (PPBM), YB Dato’ Sri Haji Tajuddin bin Abdul Rahman (UMNO) and YB Haji Amzad bin Mohamed @ Hashim (PAS).  As you can see, the CIRT will be a multi-party committee and we are committed to the simple principle that the Government and Opposition MPs should work together to serve the best interests of the country.

The CIRT will be also the second out of the 10 newly created Parliamentary Committees that is truly ministerial in scope, capacity and focus. The other committee that is ministerial focused in nature, is the Committee for Defence and Home Affairs. Under my leadership, the CIRT will be looking at the administration, policies and also the budget of both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

In the recent speech in Parliament, I gave a simple outline on the expected efforts the CIRT, 50% of which will be to support and communicate government policies, 20% to critically access and make suggestions to improve government policies, and 30% to ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability in the administration of both the MoFa and MITI ministries.

As for the policy areas of focus, I intend to lead the CIRT to look at the following.

In regards to MoFA, we will be looking at the:

(a) Palestinian issue: We will continue to track and refine policies to help the peace process and protect the rights of Palestinians;

(b) Rohingya issue: This ASEAN humanitarian crisis will require strong political will to resolve and I will like the government to pursue a policy shift in terms of Malaysian investment in Myanmar;

(c) Regional haze: We will work closely with MoFA on finding a preventive platform to provide a longer term solution to this perennial issue;

(d) Indo-Pacific: We will seek MoFa to provide the latest briefing on this important geopolitical matter and at the same time assert ASEAN centrality;

(e) United Nations: There are many human rights treaties and conventions that we will investigate and urge the government to adopt; and

(f) Climate change: We will also track this global issue and play our role in urging the government on responsible climate action and carbon pricing.

In regards to MITI, we will be looking into the following issues:

(a) US-China trade wars: We will be looking at the economic impact on Malaysian exports and potential Foreign Direct Investments from US and China;

(b) Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”): we will assess the viability and feasibility of BRI projects and how we can improve economic links on better terms with Beijing;

(c) ASEAN trade: We will be paying particular focus on strengthening Intra-ASEAN investments and in particular on issues regarding banking and services;

(d) Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP): We will be looking at the technical drafting, legal implications and rectification processes if we are to conclude this agreement in 2020;

(e) Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific and Partnership (CPTPP): We will continue to investigate the cost-benefit of CPTPP and track the rectification process in Parliament; and

(f) Asia-Pacific Economic Convention (APEC): We will look into all matters regarding the hosting of this meeting which is slated for November 2020.

In addition, my office intends to look closely at the UK Parliament and The Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) for reporting formats, rules and procedures, standards and forms on how to efficiently conduct the CIRT. My office has very good ties with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) where we can seek guidance to develop processes and operations of the CIRT. My office also has excellent relationship with the Norwegian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where we hope to adapt some more simplified and less traditional operational practices for the CIRT too.

I am pleased to be given this opportunity to chair this committee. I do have a longer-term agenda to create standard operating procedures and reporting templates that I hope, will be adopted by other Select Committees in Parliament. As you may know, my office has been talking and planning about select committees at the policy level, for the last 18 months.

With my appointment, we are now going to enter an exciting new phase of operating a committee and implementing policies. It is a great opportunity to put in practice what we have been preaching and planning for so long. As such, my office in 2020 will refocus most of our Parliamentary work, resources and research towards the CIRT.

We will of course, continue to serve the community on local matters but on Federal and Parliamentary matters, we will focus primarily on international relations and trade.