TPPA’s fate to be known in May

P Prem Kumar & Alifah ZainuddinFriday, February 17, 2017
(Graphic: Dayang Norazhar/TMR)

The remaining 11 member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agree-ment (TPPA) are expected to decide the way forward for the world’s largest trade pact by May this year.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said a decision on the TPPA is expected when the trade ministers of the 11 member countries meet in May, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit 2017 in Vietnam.

“Various proposals would be evaluated and deliberated at that time,” Mustapa told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Mustapa said the meeting in Vietnam provides the best time and platform for the leaders of the 11 countries to discuss and decide their next course of action, after the US withdrew from the pact last month.

The 11 TPPA member states are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — which represented more than 40% of the world’s gross domestic product in 2013.

“We have the Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting coming up in Manila on April 2, so of course the four Asean countries in the TPPA will exchange information at the meeting.

“Then there is the APEC Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Vietnam on May 20.

“In my view, certainly when we meet up with our colleagues in Vietnam, there would be greater clarity on which way we will move forward — either jointly or bilaterally,” he said.

While TPPA’s future remains in limbo, Mustapa said Malaysia will host a couple of TPPA ministers later this month to discuss the matter.

“We are open to proposals. We have not made a decision as it is too early,” he pointed out.

However, Mustapa is keen on bilateral consensus compared to another round of complicated regional pacts.

“In terms of perhaps being realistic, bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the few countries we have yet to have an FTA with would be a better option — that would be Canada, the US, Mexico and Peru.

“Moving on (as a pact of) 11 countries would require massive renegotiations on many issues, so it will be tough and it will take some time. Bilateral is doable,” Mustapa noted.

He added that without the world’s largest economy in the trade agreement, Malaysia’s drive to be in the TPPA has been affected.

“The US represents about 60% of TPPA so for Malaysia, (the US’ withdrawal) removes one major motivation for Malaysia to be part of the TPPA,” Mustapa said.

US President Donald Trump had been true to his campaign promises, killing the TPPA the moment he stepped into the White House and abruptly ending the results of more than five years of intense negotiations among the members.

The TPPA — which was mooted by former US President Barack Obama — was meant to mitigate China’s rising influence among the Pacific economies.

Trade ministers from 12 countries on Feb 4, 2016, had inked the TPPA in New Zealand.

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