Malaysia pins trade pact hopes on Abe-Trump meeting

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Nov 16, 2016.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Nov 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Malaysian leader Najib Razak expressed hope Wednesday (Nov 16) that Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe can persuade US President-elect Donald Trump of the merits of a languishing Pacific free trade deal.

The plea from Mr Najib came a day before Mr Abe is set to meet Trump in New York and as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also reiterated to Japan's leader the economic and strategic importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Asian leaders are scrambling to save the TPP, championed by US President Barack Obama but which Mr Trump has vowed to scrap, claiming that the 12-nation deal would harm the US economy and costs jobs.

Mr Najib and Mr Abe, after their summit in Tokyo, told reporters that their nations are moving ahead toward ratifying the TPP.

Besides Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the United States, the accord also includes Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The group accounts for an enormous 40 per cent of the global economy, and was envisaged as a counterweight to Asian giant China's expanding economic influence.

"We hope that the TPP agreement will come into force," Mr Najib told reporters with Mr Abe by his side.

"That is why I told Prime Minister Abe that his meeting... with President-elect Donald Trump is very much awaited by all TPP countries."

Mr Najib added that he hopes the "strategic importance of the TPP will be recognised by the incoming administration as well as by all participating countries".

Mr Abe's office announced that he separately spoke with Australia's Turnbull by phone to discuss the TPP.

Mr Turnbull highlighted his shared resolve with Japan to work with the incoming US administration, Mr Abe's office said in a statement.

"TPP's significance goes beyond setting economic rules for the Asia-Pacific region, but also has strategic significance of securing peace and stability of the region by countries that share basic values," Mr Abe told Mr Turnbull.

Mr Abe and other leaders of TPP countries will caucus on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Lima, Peru that begins this week.