Malaysia ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Of Members Ending RCEP Talks By Year-End – Ong

© Nikkei Markets

KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 11) — Malaysia, which is currently focussing on a speedy conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, is “cautiously optimistic” that participating countries can conclude talks by this year-end, the deputy international trade minister said Monday. 

“We make slow progress in terms of each session but I’m sure we’ll get to the end,” Ong Kian Ming told reporters on the side lines of an event. “The percentage of goods that will not be charged tariffs, whether it’s 70%, 90%, 80%…the number is still being deliberated by member countries. Some want more, some want less.”

RCEP is a free trade agreement being negotiated between the 10 countries in ASEAN with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s federal cabinet is still discussing pros and cons of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans Pacific, or CPTPP, Ong said. 

In March 2018, Malaysia signed the CPTPP that is expected to account for around 13.5% of global economic output and a market of 500 million people, sharply shriveled from its initial avatar – Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP – which would have covered 40% of the global economy and 800 million people if U.S. had remained as a member of the trading bloc.

Malaysia, which once relied mostly on commodity exports – crude oil and palm oil – to earn precious foreign exchange has steadily turned into electronics manufacturing base for several transnational companies cranking out computers and digital storage devices for global shipments. Electronics and electrical items account for more than a third of Malaysia’s exports, which find ready takers in the region, China as well as in the developed Western markets. Over the years, Malaysia has forged strong trade ties with regional neighbours as well as other Asian power houses such as India and China to keep its factories humming with export orders. 

– By Gan Pei Ling

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