Minister plays down TPP, says ‘it doesn’t matter’ if deal is dead

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said TPP is not going to mean anything significant if it doesn’t happen. — Picture courtesy of Johari Abdul Ghani
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said TPP is not going to mean anything significant if it doesn’t happen. — Picture courtesy of Johari Abdul Ghani

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14— Malaysia does not need the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to boost its position in the global economic arena because the country already has other trade agreements it can fall back on.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said that regardless of whether the TPP is passed or not, Malaysia was doing “great” in terms of trade with its many partners around the world.

“Basically, as far as Malaysia is concerned, whether there is TPP or not, it doesn’t matter as we are dealing with a lot of countries in the world through an open economy.

“We have numerous individual and bilateral agreements as well as trade agreements with so many countries...[so] TPP is not going to mean anything significant if it doesn’t happen,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

President Barack Obama’s administration suspended its efforts to win congressional approval for TPP deal before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Obama said the fate of TPP was now in the hands of Trump, who will be sworn in on January.

In the past months before the US presidential election, Obama’s lobbyists were said to have been trying to get lawmakers to pass the TPP agreement.

Trump’s victory against democrat Hillary Clinton, however, knocked off all plans to seal the deal.

On Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed saying that he would be disappointed if the deal collapses following Trump’s victory, Johari said:

“You can quote him on that but you must quote me on this...for example, this country, whether it is in the TPP agreement or not, it doesn’t matter because today our total trade is RM1.5 trillion with a lot of companies worldwide,”.

Without the TPP, Mustapa had said that it would be difficult to achieve a favourable growth as projected in the country’s gross domestic product, revenue and job creation.

Negotiations involving 12 countries — the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia — concluded in Atlanta on Oct 5 last year and signed the trade deal in Auckland on Feb 4 this year.

The TPP is a free-trade agreement that has been negotiated as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership since 2010.

Malaysia has committed to ratify the TPP by 2018, and both the lower and upper house of its Parliament had this January given its nod for the TPP.

The TPP, among other things, aims at encouraging trade by removing or lowering barriers such as trade tariffs.

When contacted, Mustapa said he will issue a statement on the matter later today (Monday).

“We are in the midst of monitoring developments on the matter so I will issue a written statement tomorrow,” he said.

Analysts have said that without the TPP, Malaysia will have to strengthen its existing trade ties.

Negotiations are ongoing for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade deal that excludes the TPP’s key driver, the US, but involves Asean’s 10 member nations and the six countries which the regional body already has trade deals with: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. 

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