Sunday, May 24, 2015Sunday, May 24, 2015

Malaysia cites "sensitivities" as Obama struggles to push trade pact

Published on Apr 27, 2014 5:33 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Sunday that he and US President Barack Obama had agreed to upgrade bilateral relations but suggested that his country remains far from ready to sign a US-led trade pact due to domestic "sensitivities".

Mr Obama's visit to Malaysia follows his swing through Japan, where he failed to clinch a trade deal key to the US "rebalancing" back to Asia. Such a deal would have injected momentum into the delayed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

Mr Najib's ambition to bring Malaysia into Mr Obama's flagship trade plan has been undercut by the resurgent influence of traditionalists within his own ruling party following a weak election showing last year.

Early this month, a Malaysian Cabinet minister was reported as saying the country was a long way from being able to sign a TPP deal and that the priority should be on economic integration within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) bloc.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak gestures as he speaks during a tour of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre in Cyberjaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on April 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!