A Better Deal for Teachers–More than Appreciation


May 21, 2018

A Better Deal for Teachers–More than Appreciation

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/5/17/teachers-need-a-lot-more-than-appreciation

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John Steinbeck writes, “In the country the repository of art and science was the school, and the schoolteacher shielded and carried the torch of learning and of beauty. . . . The teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside. A family could indeed walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.”–In East of Eden

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I intended to write on the subject, but a more newsy topic intervened. That’s an apt metaphor for the plight of teachers in America today. We live in a media environment in which the urgent often crowds out the important. But this week, I will stick to my plans.

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Novelist John Steinbeck and his companion

In “East of Eden,” a sprawling, magisterial novel about the great American West, John Steinbeck writes, “In the country the repository of art and science was the school, and the schoolteacher shielded and carried the torch of learning and of beauty. . . . The teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside. A family could indeed walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.”

The picture Steinbeck paints (set in the early 20th century) is almost unrecognizable in today’s America, where schoolteachers are so poorly paid that they are about five times as likely as the average full-time worker to have a second job, according to Vox. We have all heard about stagnant middle-class wages. But the average pay for a teacher in the United States, adjusted for inflation, has actually declined over the past 15 years, while their health-care costs have risen substantially. The Economist reports that teachers earn 60 percent of what a professional with comparable education does.

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The average salary for a teacher in many states is under $50,000. Teachers in West Virginia went on strike a few months ago to demand higher wages, and the government agreed to a 5 percent pay raise, which means the average salary will rise to only $48,000. Like many other states, West Virginia failed to restore education spending after slashing it in the wake of the financial crisis a decade ago. As of last year, per-pupil state funding (adjusted for inflation) was still down between 8 and 28 percent in five of the six states where teachers have now gone on strike, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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“…the countries that do best at public education — Singapore, Finland, South Korea — can recruit top college graduates into the teaching ranks because they pay reasonably well, they invest in professional development and their societies show deep respect for the profession.”–Fareed Zakaria

With low wages and stretched resources, American educators burn out and quit the profession at twice the rate of some of the highest-achieving countries, as Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute points out. Since 35 percent fewer Americans have studied to become teachers in recent years, she notes, there are massive teacher shortages, forcing schools nationwide to hire more than 100,000 people who lack the proper qualifications. In fact, the New York Times reports, it is so hard for public schools to find qualified Americans that many districts are starting to recruit instructors from low-wage countries such as the Philippines.

It’s not all about salaries. One veteran educator I spoke with, who began working in California in the 1960s, reminisced about that “golden age” when she had ample resources to use in the classroom, went to seminars to develop her skills and felt fulfilled. Today, teachers have little time or money for any of this. A recent survey of public school teachers found that 94 percent pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, without reimbursement, at an average of $479 a year.

It’s not even all about money. Leading a classroom was never a pathway to riches, but teachers once did command the respect and status that Steinbeck’s quote reflects. Andreas Schleicher, who heads the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s education division and has spent years doing careful international comparisons on education, has often observed that the countries that do best at public education — Singapore, Finland, South Korea — can recruit top college graduates into the teaching ranks because they pay reasonably well, they invest in professional development and their societies show deep respect for the profession. In the United States, when we encounter a member of the armed services, many of us make a point to thank them for their service. When was the last time you did the same for a public school teacher?

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Yes, education is a very complicated subject. Simply spending more money does not guarantee results — although there are studies that indicate a significant correlation between teacher pay and student achievement. Yes, the education bureaucracy is rigid and often corrupt. But all of this masks the central problem: Over the past 30 years, as part of the assault on government, bureaucrats and the public sector in general, being a teacher in America has become a thankless job. And yet, teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Rebuilding Malaysia: Titanic Task


May 15, 2018

By John Berthelsen@ http://www.asiasentinel.com

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The defeat of the national ruling coalition (UMNO-led Barisan Nasional) in Malaysia was a remarkable political event.  But now seriously difficult work has to begin if the country is to regain its onetime position as one of Southeast Asia’s most attractive economies and indeed rebuild parliamentary democracy itself.

Virtually all of the country’s institutions have been debased, lots of them by Mahathir Mohamad, the 92-year-old former Prime Minister who has been greeted as Malaysia’s savior. In the atmosphere of relief and triumph that has swept Kuala Lumpur since the May 9 election, it is worth a look at how far the country has to go.  As Germany learned after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, rebuilding is a daunting job.

It was Mahathir, for instance,  who, prior to the 2013 national election, made his first break with the now deposed Prime Minister Najib Razak because he felt Najib wasn’t favoring ethnic Malays enough and was too easy on the ethnic Chinese.  Mahathir led his own nationwide tour built on Ketuanan Melayu, or Malays first, with a firebrand named Ibrahim Ali who stopped just short of threatening violence if the opposition prevailed in that election.  He hasn’t instilled a lot of confidence by saying he would restore press freedom — which he largely destroyed in his previous prime ministerial stint — but expects to retain the “fake news” bill put into effect right before the May 9 election.

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Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin

Mahathir’s new political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, translates literally as Malaysian Indigenous United. Its officers include Muhyiddin Yassin, one of the country’s most dedicated Malays-first figures and one with a background that includes considerable unexplained wealth. The newly re-minted Prime Minister Mahathir has named Muhyiddin Home Affairs Minister.

Other party leaders are former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, former Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, and Rafidah Aziz, the former Trade and Industry Minister. Its newest members are renegades who quit UMNO .  They have vowed to give up Malays-first politics and Rafidah herself in May made a speech saying she had “always hated racial politics.”

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All of them may have changed their ethnically-oriented political spots, as Mahathir says he has. If they have, it is an extraordinary turnaround. It remains to be seen, for instance, how they, so recently in Malays-first mode, will interact with the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party. Rafizi Ramli, the Secretary-General of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, headed by the jailed Anwar Ibrahim, has already complained that Mahathir is making decisions without consulting the three other parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition.  Rafizi was immediately told to shut up by his colleagues.  But Rafizi may be remembering Mahathir as the autocrat he was as Prime Minister.

The country’s judges, all the way up to the Federal Court, the country’s highest tribunal, presumably will now have to relearn jurisprudence from top to bottom, or almost the entire judiciary is going to have to be sacked. For example the prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim on bogus charges of homosexual activity that were clearly flawed. The complaining witness appeared to have been coached by Najib and his wife. Two hospitals found no evidence his anus had been penetrated. A full 50 hours elapsed before he found a hospital that would agree he had had sexual contact. DNA evidence that was supposedly Anwar’s was ruled by a lower court to be flawed.  Anwar had a convincing alibi.

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Nonetheless, the high court convicted Anwar in a case roundly condemned by international human rights organizations. That is only one of 30 years of skewed judicial decisions that began after Mahathir sacked Tun Salleh Abbas, the Chief Justice,  in 1988.  Presumably it is up to Mahathir, who has been on the receiving end of warped judicial decisions when his Parti Pribumi Bersatu was outlawed on a dubious technicality shortly before the election, to put the Judiciary right again.

The same goes for its Police Force, which showed little zeal in investigating a long string of crimes including the death of Kevin Morais, a deputy public prosecutor connected to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, whose body was found in a cement-filled oil drum in a river. Morais is believed to have been a major source for Clare Rewcastle Brown, whose Sarawak Report has excoriated Najib for the 1MDB affair with deeply researched and sourced allegations of corruption.

A report on corruption, apparently largely written by Morais, disappeared in 2016 – along with the previous Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail – who was replaced by Mohamed Apandi Ali, an UMNO lawyer, and promptly said there was no wrongdoing connected to 1MDB.

The Malay business community has largely depended for its success on having its snout in the public trough. Some of the country’s biggest companies are linked directly to the political parties. Presumably, if good government is to prevail, many of these contracts will have to be unwound, particularly for infrastructure spending. Will the companies now have to learn to compete on a level playing field, or will they seek out sympathetic figures in the new administration?

Other institutions that face wrenching change are all of the mainstream media including the two leading English-language newspapers, The Star and The New Straits Times, which are still owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) respectively and the superstructures of the newspaper remain in the hands of those two political parties. Utusan Malaysia, also owned by UMNO and which was virulently racist against ethnic Chinese and Indians still has the same editorial structure, as do all the other major television, radio and other media.  All have been bitterly opposed to the opposition for decades, with their slanted reporting increasing as the May 9 election approached.

The education system, again a creature that came into being under Mahathir, not only largely excludes minorities, forcing them to go overseas for higher education, but has resulted in what amounts to a free pass and graduation for ethnic Malays, a system in which striving is unnecessary. It has resulted in a largely uneducated population. The system, with all of its vested interests, is going to be extremely difficult to reform. But for the country to regain its competitiveness, it will have to be rebuilt.

Perhaps most difficult to fix is its religious institutions, particularly Islam, which have been bent to serve political ends, first by Mahathir and then by Najib as they exploited the delicate ethnic balance in the country to keep UMNO  in power. Through the newspapers and other media, they cast the Chinese as grasping and ready to take political power. Christians – which make up a sizable portion of the Chinese population as well as indigenous tribes in East Malaysia – have been demonized.

In 2017, a popular Chinese pastor, Raymond Koh, was kidnapped. He has never been found, nor has Joshua Hilmy, a convert from Islam, who was reported missing along with his wife, Ruth, who were reported missing in March.  Koh’s wife has questioned whether people in power were involved in his disappearance. Police investigations into the kidnappings have been described as lackadaisical.

Najib was on the edge of pushing through a law in Parliament that would have allowed Parti-Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, to implement Shariah law, including prescriptions for seventh-century punishments, in the state of Kelantan, which it then controlled. PAS has now expanded its political hold to Terengganu as well.

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Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail

In a country where distrust of ethnic minorities has been ingrained for decades, particularly in the most recent one, rebuilding trust is going to be difficult. Learning to compete may be even more difficult. The Chinese are largely more dynamic than the Malays, especially since the Malays’ education system, their political system, their social institutions as exemplified in the affirmative action program known as the New Economic Policy,  have all conspired to give them a free ride.

Tun Daim Zainuddin and his Colleagues get down to business


May 13, 2018

Tun Daim Zainuddin and his Colleagues get down to business

KUALA LUMPUR: The newly set up Team of Eminent Persons meant business and wasted no time as they convened their first meeting soon after the announcement of its formation by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

Chaired by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin (left), the meeting, which went late into the night, was also attended by three other members of the team, namely (from right) former Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas President and Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Billionaire tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok was not present as he is currently overseas. Bernama Photo

No honeymoon period and prolonged post-election euphoria as the government is determined to restore the confidence of the people and investors after Pakatan Harapan’s unprecedented win in the 14th general election on May 9.

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The Prime Minister with Tun Daim Zainuddin and Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz

Chaired by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, the meeting, which went late into the night, was also attended by three other members of the team, namely former Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas President and Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Billionaire tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok was not present as he is currently overseas.

Speaking to Bernama after the meeting, Daim said the five-member team was briefed and deliberated on current economic situation, the national debt, the ringgit, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and fuel subsidies, amongst others.

“These are the major things. We are making the recommendations to the government. At the end they will decide,” he said.

Daim said the council would be calling the Public Private Partnership Unit (under the Prime Minister’s Department), related ministries and government-linked companies (GLCs) to brief them on various mega projects and the governance of GLCs, including Lembaga Tabung Haji, Majlis Amanah Rakyat and the Federal Land Development Authority.

“As for 1MDB, there will a special task force, I have identify those who can assist the probe into 1MDB. It would be under the purview of the Team which will submit the report to the government,” Daim said.

He said another pertinent issue that needed to be addressed quickly was the oversupply of office space and housing.

“Another example is the cost of security for schools. It cost more than the assets they’re guarding,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Daim said the team would hold meetings daily for 100 days, and in fact on some days, it would be a few times a day.

“I want this to finish this within 100 days. After that I want to sleep,” he quipped. –Bernama

 

The Reagan revolution is officially over


April 18, 2018

The Reagan revolution is officially over

by Fareed Zakaria

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House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress is being interpreted as a sign by many that Republicans will do poorly in the midterm elections. That may be true, but the exit of the Wisconsin Republican also symbolizes a broad shift that has taken place within the party. It marks the end of the Reagan revolution.

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The GOP of the 1950s and ’60s was the party of American business, drawing broad support from white-collar professionals and country-club businessmen. It had a straightforward chamber of commerce orientation, arguing for low taxes, few regulations and fiscal responsibility. But it was a minority party, willing to go along with the basic contours of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

To understand the extent of Roosevelt’s imprint on American politics in the mid-20th century, consider this fact: From 1933 to 1969, the only men who occupied the Oval Office were FDR, fervent disciples of FDR or, in the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general handpicked and promoted by FDR. It is said that when Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969, his already healthy paranoia grew, because he believed, not without reason, that he was a lonely Republican in a federal government that had been stacked with liberals for almost half a century.

In foreign affairs, the Republican Party in the 1950s had only recently shrugged off its isolationist posture but was still cautious about international engagement. On civil rights, the party was progressive and activist. Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor, issued the Supreme Court’s landmark decision outlawing school segregation, and Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to Arkansas to enforce the ruling.

Nixon ushered in the beginnings of the party’s first transformation. It had long had a nationalist and nativist side, but Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s embrace of the civil rights movement created the circumstances for one of the great flips of U.S. history. The Democrats, heretofore the party of the Jim Crow South, became the party of civil rights, while the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, began to mirror the resentments of Southern whites against the federal government and civil rights legislation. But in other areas of domestic policy, Nixon governed as a liberal. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and managed the economy much like any Democrat would have. “We are all Keynesians now,” he is famously quoted as saying.

President Ronald Reagan finished what Nixon started, turning the GOP into an ideologically oriented party, staunchly advocating free markets, free trade, limited government and an enthusiastic internationalism that promoted democracy abroad. The old country-club Republicans were never true believers, but they accepted Reagan’s redefinition after its electoral success, as demonstrated by the alliance between the Gipper and his vice president, George H.W. Bush.

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The Reagan redefinition of the party, as a quasi-libertarian organization, persisted through the Clinton years, though the GOP continued to bring along its socially conservative base. The party leaders and its official ideology were Reaganite.

Then came Donald Trump. Early on, Trump seemed to recognize that the Republican Party had changed and that the core ideological appeal was no longer about economics but nationalism, race and religion. His first major political cause was birtherism, the noxious and false claim that President Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim born in Kenya.

When Trump ran for the Republican nomination in 2016, he was virtually alone on the podium in rejecting the Reagan formula. He dismissed any prospect of entitlement reform, while criticizing foreign interventions and democracy promotion. Even on free-market economics, he flirted with all kinds of liberal ideas, including big infrastructure spending and universal health care.

But he was consistently hard line on a few core issues — immigration, trade, race and religion. On all these, he stuck to a tough nationalist, protectionist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and pro-police line. And, as a rank outsider, he defeated 16 talented Republicans. Libertarianism, it turned out, was an ideology with many leaders — Republican senators, governors, think-tankers — but very few followers.

A month before the November 2016 election, when everyone expected Trump to lose, Ryan got on a call with other Republican congressmen and told them to feel free to distance themselves from Trump. After the call, the speaker’s approval rating among Republican voters dropped almost 20 points. The base of the party — now older, whiter, and less educated — was with Trump, not Ryan.

Ryan had his faults. He embodied the hypocrisy of Reaganism, advocating fiscal probity while exploding the deficit. He was a bad legislative strategist, unable to repeal Obamacare after years to prepare for it. But he was a genuine and ardent Reaganite. His successors will not be. The second transformation of the Republican Party is now complete.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter with Trumpland?


April 4, 2018

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Jack Ma –What’s the Matter with this American President?

These days almost everyone has the (justified) sense that America is coming apart at the seams. But this isn’t a new story, or just about politics. Things have been falling apart on multiple fronts since the 1970s: Political polarization has marched side by side with economic polarization, as income inequality has soared.

And both political and economic polarization have a strong geographic dimension. On the economic side, some parts of America, mainly big coastal cities, have been getting much richer, but other parts have been left behind. On the political side, the thriving regions by and large voted for Hillary Clinton, while the lagging regions voted for Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that everything is great in coastal cities: Many people remain economically stranded even within metropolitan areas that look successful in the aggregate. And soaring housing costs, thanks in large part to Nimbyism, are a real and growing problem. Still, regional economic divergence is real and correlates closely, though not perfectly, with political divergence.

But what’s behind this divergence? What’s the matter with Trumpland?

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Trump won 2016 Presidential Elections but he is breaking up American society on the pretext of draining the swamp in Washington DC. The Republican leaders in the House (Paul Ryan) and the Senate (Mitch McConnell) are helping Trump do it.–Din Merican

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Regional disparities aren’t a new phenomenon in America. Indeed, before World War II the world’s richest, most productive nation was also a nation with millions of dirt-poor farmers, many of whom didn’t even have electricity or indoor plumbing. But until the 1970s those disparities were rapidly narrowing.

Take, for example, the case of Mississippi, America’s poorest state. In the 1930s, per-capita income in Mississippi was only 30 percent as high as per-capita income in Massachusetts. By the late 1970s, however, that figure was almost 70 percent — and most people probably expected this process of convergence to continue.

But the process went into reverse instead: These days, Mississippi is back down to only about 55 percent of Massachusetts income. To put this in international perspective, Mississippi now is about as poor relative to the coastal states as Sicily is relative to northern Italy.

Mississippi isn’t an isolated case. As a new paper by Austin, Glaeser and Summers documents, regional convergence in per-capita incomes has stopped dead. And the relative economic decline of lagging regions has been accompanied by growing social problems: a rising share of prime-aged men not working, rising mortality, high levels of opioid consumption.

An aside: One implication of these developments is that William Julius Wilson was right. Wilson famously argued that the social ills of the nonwhite inner-city poor had their origin not in some mysterious flaws of African-American culture but in economic factors — specifically, the disappearance of good blue-collar jobs. Sure enough, when rural whites faced a similar loss of economic opportunity, they experienced a similar social unraveling.

So what is the matter with Trumpland?

For the most part I’m in agreement with Berkeley’s Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” is must reading for anyone trying to understand the state of America. Moretti argues that structural changes in the economy have favored industries that employ highly educated workers — and that these industries do best in locations where there are already a lot of these workers. As a result, these regions are experiencing a virtuous circle of growth: Their knowledge-intensive industries prosper, drawing in even more educated workers, which reinforces their advantage.

And at the same time, regions that started with a poorly educated work force are in a downward spiral, both because they’re stuck with the wrong industries and because they’re experiencing what amounts to a brain drain.

While these structural factors are surely the main story, however, I think we have to acknowledge the role of self-destructive politics.

That new Austin et al. paper makes the case for a national policy of aiding lagging regions. But we already have programs that would aid these regions — but which they won’t accept. Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill — and would create jobs in the process — are also among America’s poorest.

Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma — both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind — have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they’re digging it deeper.

And when it comes to national politics, let’s face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.

The truth is that doing something about America’s growing regional divide would be hard even with smart policies. The divide will only get worse under the policies we’re actually likely to get.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: What’s the Matter With Trumpland?. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

CPTPP is good for Malaysia


March 22, 2018

CPTPP is good for Malaysia

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/03/21/cptpp-will-be-good-for-malaysia/

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Malaysia’s MITI Minister Dato’Mustap Mohamed

THE Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the rebranded TPPA, was finally signed by 11 countries on March 8.

The pact had earlier raised anxiety among certain parties that it would jeopardise Malaysia’s sovereignty and undermine the well-being of its citizens. But if we look at the bigger picture, the pact will benefit the country in the long run because our economy depends largely on trade activities.

According to Moody’s last week, Malaysia would be the biggest winner from the deal as the CPTPP covers a market of nearly 500 million despite the absence of the United States.

This fact was reinforced by the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ (PIIE) research, which showed that the CPTPP would benefit palm oil, rubber and electronics exporters like Malaysia with export access to new markets including Canada, Peru and Mexico.

Looking at current data by the Malaysia External Trade Develop­ment Corporation (Matrade), Malaysia’s dependence on trade is undeniable, recording RM935.39bil in exports last year and RM838.14bil in imports. Malaysia enjoyed a trade surplus of RM97.28bil.

The electrical and electronics sector remains the top exporter accounting for 36.7% while palm oil products stood at 5.8%. Malaysia is also currently the largest producer of gloves, controlling almost 65% of the world market.

In view of this, the CPTPP will encourage existing manufacturers to expand as it provides access to new or untapped markets. It will indirectly reduce our reliance on the US market as well.

Ahmad Shahir Abdul AzizUniversiti Sains Malaysia

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READ: http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/model-trade-deal-con –by Dr Kwame Jomo Sundaram