IPEF will enable Malaysia, US to address trade issues

Mohamed Azmin says the economic framework is seen as a suitable platform for Malaysia and the US to discuss various trade-related matters


THE Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (picture) said the newly established Indo-Pacific Economic Forum (IPEF) could serve as a platform to discuss and resolve issues surrounding the World Trade Organisation.

He said the IPEF, which aims to promote regional economic cooperation among 16 countries, including the US, would allow Malaysia to engage directly with Washington on trade-related issues.

Mohamed Azmin said that the economic framework is seen as a suitable platform for Malaysia and the US to discuss various trade-related matters. These include sharing efforts to improve Malaysia’s position in the Trafficking in Persons Report, as well as fostering closer cooperation with the US government to improve Malaysia’s ability to comply with the latest international regulations and standards, which will further reduce the incidence of withholding release orders against Malaysian companies.

“The IPEF is not a traditional free trade agreement (FTA), but rather an instrument or platform that can help us strengthen our economic relations with the US and member countries in the Indo-Pacific region.”

In his speech during the IPEF ministerial meeting, he said: “With this new forum, we hope to strengthen our ties and also build stronger economic relations with the US.”

He added that the IPEF is open to all countries that are members of Asean and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Mohamed Azmin said this in response to a question by Bukit Bendera MP Wong Hon Wai and Tebrau MP Steven Choong Shiau Yoon, who had asked about the current status of Malaysia’s involvement in the IPEF, how the country may strike a better balance in its international commerce with other key trading partners like China, and whether or not Malaysia had joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

On Wednesday, Malaysia recommended that IPEF partners work together to establish a centre of excellence, which would offer a unified and organised platform for the efficient and productive sharing of ideas and advice.

Experts in areas such as supply chain resilience, energy sector reform, and decarbonisation of emission-intensive sectors will be brought together, as stated by Mohamed Azmin in a statement released during the IPEF ministerial conference.

On Thursday, Azmin addressed the Dewan Rakyat and clarified that the IPEF is not a standard FTA but rather an instrument or platform that may aid Malaysia in bolstering its economic ties with the US and member nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

He said Malaysia had recommended the centre’s formation since market access is an issue that needs to be addressed by IPEF members, notably the US.

Mohamed Azmin also viewed that Malaysia needs to deepen its economic integration, especially in today’s increasingly challenging situation.

“We can no longer act alone. Malaysia, as a trading country, needs to establish economic relations with various parties and many countries, including China, the European Union and the US.

“Before we took a stand to join the IPEF, Malaysia had already agreed to join the RCEP, and we have ratified the RCEP agreement, where China is a member country. This proves Malaysia’s commitment to not only continuing but strengthening trade and investment with China.

“Secondly, China has also submitted an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Malaysia signed this agreement in 2018 and is now in the process of ratifying it. So, this (the IPEF) is a new platform, even though it is not an FTA,” he said.