Malaysia

Troubled Pacific Rim pact to get nod only next year, not when Obama’s here

The controversial Pacific Rim free trade agreement will not be signed during US President Barack Obama's trip to Kuala Lumpur in October, sources say – after the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) said it is conducting cost-benefit analyses on the pact.

But if Putrajaya agrees with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) after the studies are done and feedback received, it will be likely inked when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tours the United States next year, the sources added.

"There won't be any signing yet any time soon. The government is worried about the pushback towards the TPPA," a source told The Malaysian Insider.

He said there have also been rumblings about Obama's visit in October, especially after Umno had announced the visit will delay the party elections.

"Some people are wondering what Obama has to do with the party polls. So the ministers who are Umno leaders are treading very carefully on this one," another source said.

Najib is due to visit the United States next month before the trade talks conclude but sources said Malaysia will take its time to accede to the pact.

The rising vocal opposition and criticism towards the TPPA have forced Putrajaya to delay any final decision until two cost-benefit analyses on national interests and Bumiputera small and medium enterprises affected by the pact are done.

Najib is due to meet one of the TPPA's harshest critics,  the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), today at a Hari Raya open house event and all eyes will be on their discussions over the trade pact.

MTEM has recruited former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to join their cause to get Putrajaya to ditch the talks which began in 2010 and involve 12 nations with a combined population of 800 million.

The trade pact, if it succeeds, will create a combined economy of GDP worth US$28 trillion, say officials involved in the talks. The talks are now in the 19th round and being held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, this week.

Stung by criticism from various quarters, Miti said yesterday it would be more open with the public and disclose its studies on the benefits of the controversial free trade pact.

"The two studies will be completed in two to three months' time and the results will be made public," the minister said at Miti's Hari Raya open house in Kuala Lumpur, adding that they welcome Dr Mahathir's sharp criticism of the talks.

In a MTEM seminar this week, Dr Mahathir had slammed Malaysia's participation in the TPPA and called it a controlled trade pact designed to serve the interests of the United States. He had called for Malaysia to withdraw from the talks immediately.

Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have attacked the TPPA for its lack of disclosure and the government has defended its stance in limiting the information flow due to confidentiality clauses in the negotiations.

During the Miti Open Day on August 1, Miti maintained that this is one of the areas that was currently in dispute and the government’s stance was that economies should be allowed to limit the involvement of state-owned enterprises in the economy according to their own phase. - August 28, 2013.

Previously...

Miti pledges transparency in TPPA talks, to disclose cost benefit studies

Malaysia must stick by principles in TPPA negotiations, says MTEM

TPPA serves the interest of the United States, warns Dr Mahathir

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