Malaysia promises to prioritise Asean

The sun rises over the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur. Source: Wikimedia

The Asean Economic Community (AEC) remains the principle priority for Malaysia although it has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), says the International Trade and Industry Ministry.

Minister Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Asean would continue to be Malaysia’s focus.

“Malaysia has already established free-trade agreements (FTA) with most countries involved in the TPP discussions.

“Asean would be our principle. Our priority is still to be aligned with Asean,” he told the National Undergraduates Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Mustapa said Asean’s nine other members were important to Malaysia while only four TPP countries out of the 12 were significant to Malaysia: the United States, Canada, Mexico and Peru.

“We are attracted to countries which we don’t have any FTA yet. “We will gain greater market access through new markets such as Mexico and Canada,” he said, adding that Malaysia would gaining valuable access to Canada with its auto exports and palm oil.

Mustapa said Malaysian firms trading with TPP countries would be able to access better facilities.

“The Asean Economic Community is here to stay and the TPP will be an improvement to our trade network,” Mustapa added.

Malaysia ended its chairmanship of Asean as its economic community was unveiled.

The AEC aims to create a single market across the region by standardising regulation on trade, capital and labour movement.

Malaysia is seen as one of the driving forces behind the AEC but businesses continue to struggle with contradictory rules and regulations that raise costs and difficulties of cross-border trade, observers claim.

Sanchita Basu Das, economist at the Asean Studies Centre in Singapore, said: “Though 10 countries have signed onto a framework that intends to direct the movement of skilled labour in the region, actual movement remains subject to the policies of individual nations.

“Ordinary people are yet to acknowledge that Asean initiatives have resulted in higher income and more job opportunities.

“For the last 10 years, establishing an integrated community has been one of Asean’s primary ambitions.

“The international community’s growing recognition of Asean was further seen in the appointment of some 70 ambassadors to Asean as well as the regular invitation of the Asean secretary general and the Asean chair to G20 meetings.”

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