Malaysia PM urges US to adopt more active Asean trade agenda

WASHINGTON • Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has urged the United States to adopt a more active trade and investment agenda with Asean, saying this would benefit Washington economically and strategically.

Speaking in Washington on Thursday, where Asean leaders were gathered for a two-day summit with President Joe Biden, Datuk Seri Ismail made clear some of the frustration felt in Asia since former president Donald Trump quit a regional trade pact in 2017.

He said the US was an important partner for Asean, as its largest foreign direct investor and second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade of US$308.9 billion (S$432 billion) in 2020.

Mr Ismail told a forum of US businesses and other Asean leaders that the Covid-19 pandemic had made clear the importance of international trade and cooperation and the interlinkage of regional supply chains. "Therefore, the US should adopt a more active trade and investment agenda with Asean, which will benefit the US economically and strategically," he said.

Mr Ismail pointed to the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a Chinese-backed initiative, which Asean saw as an important tool to invigorate regional business and economic activity through a marked reduction in trade barriers.

He said there were some 6,200 US companies operating in Asean, many of which used the region as a production platform to export in the region and beyond.

"To further their growth I would encourage US businesses to tap the largest (free trade agreement), with a market covering 15 countries, comprising 2.3 billion, or nearly a third of the global population and world (gross domestic product)," he said, urging the US to take advantage of the vast investment opportunities available.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline Malaysia PM urges US to adopt more active Asean trade agenda. Subscribe