‘Malaysia keen to conclude RCEP talks by end of year’
KUALA LUMPUR: While Malaysia is more focused on seeing to the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks by year-end, it has not shifted its focus off the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
International Trade and Industry Ministry deputy secretarygeneral Datuk Ishak Isham said the concessions agreed on during TPP negotiations over five years were targeted towards getting access to American markets.
“Malaysia would have benefited from exports of palm oil and rubber, plywood, electronics, textiles, automotive parts and components. Without the US, it would be difficult to say if it will benefit us,” he said.
Malaysia remained hopeful the new US administration under President Donald Trump would rethink its decision, he said.
There are US congressmen and multinational corporations who are said to be pushing the US to be part of the 12-member grouping again.
In the meantime, Isham said the ratification process across the grouping was now almost 85 per cent and in the case of Malaysia, it would continue.
Earlier, Isham said at the Malaysia Trade and Export Finance Conference 2017 yesterday the government was faced with four options after Trump withdrew US from the TPP in January.
They were pursuing the TPP with the US, a TPP minus one (US), bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with TPP members and not doing anything.
The signatories of the agreement in February last year are currently in Santiago, Chile, to discuss the way forward for the pact.
“Trade ministers will also meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Vietnam in May, where there will be further discussions.”
On a bilateral FTA with the US, he said it was still early days as Malaysia wanted to be clear about Trump’s trade policy, adding that Malaysia would have to assess through a cost-benefit analysis as to whether it should embark on the talks again.
Both countries were previously engaged in bilateral FTA talks but decided to forego that in favour of the TPP.
Isham said the FTA talks with the European Union would also resume some time this year.
On the RCEP, a trade pact with a less ambitious target than the TPP, he said 17 rounds of negotiations had been held since May 2013.
“Challenges remain in bridging gaps between the different levels of the economies.”
When concluded, it will be a new basis for FTAs in the region and a stepping stone for further engagements with the rest of the world.
The RCEP involves 16 countries comprising the 10 members of Asean and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
It covers 50 per cent of the global population and has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$20.8 trillion (RM92.56 trillion), which makes up 28.1 per cent of the total world GDP.
It also makes up US$9.55 trillion of global trade (28.7 per cent of world total) and US$329.6 billion of foreign direct investment inflows. Rupa Damodaran
Without the US, it would be difficult to say it will benefit us.
DATUK ISHAK ISHAM Deputy secretary-general International Trade and Industry Ministry