TPP's uncertain future - Malaysia

Focus may switch to RCEP, S-E Asia

Several countries swung to making efforts to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership after President Donald Trump's decision to dump the pact left its future in doubt.

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will focus on the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal collapse following US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement.

Although International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said the remaining 11 countries would assess their options, Malaysia would have to look for other avenues to boost trade given the importance of the United States as its third-largest trade partner.

"Should the TPP fail to enter into force, it will be a missed opportunity for Malaysia since a number of research houses have singled us out as a clear winner in the (agreement)," he said in a statement yesterday.

In such an event, he added, Malaysia would focus on enhancing South-east Asian economic integration, pursuing bilateral free trade agreements with TPP members and "push for the timely conclusion of the RCEP".

Datuk Seri Mustapa also said that despite the US decision to exit the TPP, Malaysia would continue to engage US colleagues bilaterally on trade and economic relations.

The Malaysian government has been a staunch supporter of the TPP despite protests at home over fears that the trade deal may lead to rising costs, loss of sovereignty and diffusion of the pro-Malay affirmative action policies.

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Focus may switch to RCEP, S-E Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe