16 Jul 2013 07:54

(updating story with latest info from MITI senior official)

KOTA KINABALU, July 15 (Bernama) -- The 18th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations began here today with renewed confidence with the participation of Japan in the free trade talks for the first time.

In disclosing this, Senior Director in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry J. Jayasiri said Japanese officials would join in the TPP talks towards the later part of the programmes slated to be held here from today till July 25.

"This round of negotiations involve 11 countries, and Japan will be the 12th country to join the TPP," he told Bernama today.

Jayasiri said some 900 participants, including stakeholders, had registered for the TPP.

"Our objective is to achieve as much progress as possible with a view to conclude the talks by year-end," he said.

He said among the main issues to be discussed are matters concerning environment, financial services, market access, investment, technical barriers to trade and E-commerce.

Jayasiri said Malaysia as the host country would provide the opportunity for registered stakeholders to make presentations on issues related to TPP and exchange views with the delegates in the morning session on July 20.

"For the stakeholders session, we allow them to comment and present their views and suggestions on issues concerned to them," he said.

Jayasiri said the TPP chief negotiators would hold a briefing to update stakeholders on TPP developments, followed by a question-and-answer-session in the afternoon on the same day.

"On the last day (July 25), we will have a media conference to brief on what we have achieved at this round of negotiations," he said.

The ultimate aim of the TPP is to create a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific. Members of the proposed “free trade” bloc include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The regional trading partnership intends to establish a comprehensive free trade agreement across the region.