BANGKOK, June 22 — Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali today said that Malaysia is committed to signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as long as it constitutes a fair deal.
“Malaysia is definitely committed, however, we want to ensure that while our stand in many things is that we want free trade, we have also stressed that it must be a fair trade, especially for small economy countries like Malaysia.
“Our commitment to free trade cannot be disputed but as a small nation we also want fair trade to be given attention and I’m confident that this can be finalised soon,” he told Malaysian reporters during a brief interview session.
Azmin is here with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is leading the Malaysian delegation to the 34th Asean Summit and Related Summits from June 20 to 23 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among the 10-member Asean, comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and the six countries with which the regional grouping has existing FTAs with; namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Azmin said RCEP has been an ongoing discussion between Asean leaders from the last meeting in Singapore during the 33rd Asean Summit where the topic was also brought up.
“Asean leaders are very committed in order for this new understanding to come in place and any issues must be resolved soon.
“There are plenty of opportunities from RCEP and I believe this will be discussed tomorrow during the regional group meeting,” he said.
When asked if RCEP can be concluded during the meeting tomorrow, Azmin said: “We will not conclude now, I think we should allow the process to continue as there are some concerns among the member state but they are certainly committed to ensuring that this new regional corporation is strengthened.”
Meanwhile, Azmin said during the Summit, leaders will also look at progress reports on Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) and sub-regional cooperation within Asean known as the East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) as the masterplan for both was approved in 2017.
“Under BIMP-EAGA we have identified 69 infrastructure projects that will be developed by the participating country and 16 projects has so far been completed.
“While for IMT-GT it involves 41 projects worth 47 billion (US dollars).
“Tomorrow both reports will be tabled at the Asean Summit and I believe participating nations will see how the current economic challenge can be strengthened and the role of Asean especially in regards to the trade war situation between China and the US,” he said.
Azmin said he has also taken the opportunity to meet with famous investors in Thailand and has met with several other business community groups.
“A dialogue session with Thailand corporate leaders was conducted yesterday which was also attended by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and based on the interaction it was really positive.
“The Thai business community is ready to invest in Malaysia and this will create job opportunities in the country and contribute to a better economy,” he added.