16 Jul 2013 07:54

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 (Bernama) -- The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) will give the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) top priority in trade negotiation rather than Asia's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said a lot of the ministry's resources, particularly in terms of manpower, had been devoted to the TPP negotiation.

He said the RCEP negotiation has just started while the TPP started three years ago.

"But it doesn't mean that whatever that is started early will be finished earlier," he said.

Mustapa said this to reporters after distributing 'bubur lambuk' packets for the breaking of fast to the MITI staff and the media here today.

RCEP is an economic partnership arrangement involving Asean and its free-trade area partners, namely, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.

On whether the TPP could possibly be concluded by year-end or delayed after Japan has been allowed to enter into trade talk, Mustapa said no one, even those in a position of power, would be able to give any definite timeline at this point of time.

He said everything depended on what happened at the 18th TPP negotiations round, currently held in Kota Kinabalu from July 15-24.

"We are not sure what is going to happen. We are adopting an open attitude," he said, adding that Japan would make its debut at the TPP talks next Tuesday.

The 18th round involves 11 countries -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US and Vietnam.

Japan became the 12th country to join the TPP in April. -- BERNAMA