16 Jul 2013 07:54

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 (Bernama) -- Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)negotiators from 12 countries have converged on Kota Kinabalu for the 18th round, with an eye on concluding negotiations by year-end.

Japan makes its debut as the 12th TPP member in Sabah, alongside Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The negotiations, from today until July 25, are being held behind closed doors and there is no public session, except for the stakeholder session, on July 20.

The objective of the programme is to allow stakeholders to present their views and concerns.

More than 180 stakeholders, including 51 from Malaysia representing different interest groups have registered for this session.

The TPP Agreement, a free trade initiative, is expected to expand exports of participating countries into a large global market base and provide a cheaper product base for consumers.

With the proposed elimination or reduction of duties in the TPP Agreement, Malaysian products would be more competitive, particularly in the larger United States (US) market.

Although it is a trade deal, it also impacts foreign investments, with Japan having been a major investor in Malaysia, along with the US and Asean countries.

A media conference is scheduled on July 25, hosted by the TPP chief negotiators to provide an opportunity to update the media on TPP developments.

As a trading nation, it makes economic sense for Kuala Lumpur to join the TPP Agreement to gain greater access into the markets of its trading partners, especially the US, Japan and Asean. Unfortunately, some quarters are circulating what Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), describes as inaccurate information. Among them are allegations of a study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) containing recommendations for Malaysia not to sign the TPPA. MITI has come out to categorically deny the allegations, saying that they grossly misrepresent the Malaysian government's position with regard to the country's trade agenda. The Cabinet has to give the go-ahead to any agreement by Malaysia at the talks, before any deal is signed.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said at a recent discourse that it was important for Malaysia to be part of the TPP Agreement to reduce bureaucracy and improve the delivery system which would indirectly reduce corruption.

He also said joining the TPP Agreement would not necessarily increase foreign investments in the country, but would help make Malaysia a favourite investment destination among foreign investors. "With the TPP Agreement in place, it will also protect the interest of government-linked conglomerates like Petronas and Sime Darby Bhd, which have invested heavily overseas," he was quoted as saying.

Mustapa said although the negotiations are in the final stage, Malaysia would not compromise on any issue that would jeopardise the country's sovereignty and peoples' interest, in the pursuit to chase the planned year-end dateline.-- BERNAMA