KUALA LUMPUR: Any resumption in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) will be on condition that it paves the way for “fair trade” and a level playing field, Senior Minister for Economy cum International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said today.
He said while Malaysia was always open to free-trade agreements, what needed to be given more attention now was a “free and fair-trade agreement”.
“If there is a proposal to ‘revive’ or revise the TPPA, all these matters must be taken into account by the parties who intend to sign the agreement,” he told Bernama.
Azmin was asked about Malaysia’s next move should the US return to the TPPA following Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump in the US presidential race.
Trump refused to ratify and pulled the US out of the TPPA just after taking office in January 2017.
The US, Malaysia and 10 other countries reached an agreement on the TPP during Barack Obama’s presidency, with Biden as his vice-president then.
“This issue was hotly debated at some point in the past because there were some provisions in the agreement that were felt not to guarantee or provide protection to the local industries.
“Today, as a government, we certainly want a bigger market, but we also want to protect our local industries from being bullied by the big powers,” he said.
Azmin said as a small economy, Malaysia did not want to be bullied by the big powers and that it also had a role to play in contributing to the global market.
Hence, any trade agreement to be signed must look at the level of development of a country, he said.
So far Malaysia has signed 13 FTAs.
The TPPA countries, namely Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia, account for almost 40% of the world’s gross domestic product and a third of global trade.
Following the US withdrawal, the TPP ministers from the remaining 11 member countries convened a meeting on May 21, 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam, and affirmed the economic and strategic importance of the TPPA.
Negotiators from the 11 countries met over several rounds to find ways to implement the TPPA.
On Nov 9-10, 2017, in Da Nang, Vietnam, the ministers reached an agreement on the core elements, the text of the agreement and the way forward to implement the TPPA, which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Malaysia is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Nov 20, which will be held virtually for the first time.