CPTPP decision must take in investors’ view of Malaysia, says Ong

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming says Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand have either ratified CPTPP or expressed strong interest in joining. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 11, 2019.

WHETHER Malaysia ratifies the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) must take into account how foreign investors will view the country’s position in Asean, said Dr Ong Kian Ming.

The deputy international trade and industry minister said this is important seeing as to how the region’s top three trading powerhouses – Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand – have either ratified the agreement or expressed strong interest in joining.

“Let’s say these three most open economies in Asean either ratify or are interested in joining CPTPP, while Malaysia is… deliberating the process. We need to take into account how foreign investors will view our position in the region in the long term,” he told reporters after the Asean Integration Outlook 2019 dialogue in Kuala Lumpur today.

He said there is also growing discussion on the possibility of China joining the pact.

“Although I do not anticipate China being part of CPTPP in the next one or two years, we cannot discount that possibility, especially considering US-China trade tensions.”

He said the government is cautiously optimistic that talks on another mega trade pact, namely the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, will reach a conclusion this year.

One area of discussion that has yet to reach a conclusion among participating countries is the level of trade liberalisation.

“We are waiting for the outcome of the general election in India to see the position the new administration will take,” said Ong.

“I think the push for greater trade is something that a country like India will have to consider very seriously, regardless of which side takes power after the election.”

On the third national car, he said it is being handled by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (Might), an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department.

The ministry’s role is to coordinate with Might on the National Automotive Policy to see how the third national car fits into the automotive sector.

“The third national car will not be a flying car. I have not seen the prototype, and I am not privy to the details of the car, but it is unlikely that the flying car will be produced on a commercial basis,” said Ong.

“Whatever is developed will be a prototype, utilising existing seed money, and if there are parties in the private sector interested in expanding the project, it would be the prerogative of the private sector.”

Asked about Malaysia’s foreign direct investment performance for last year, he said: “I am quite confident that it will be better than 2017. The figures will be announced by the minister on Thursday.”

The half-day dialogue was organised by the CIMB Asean Research Institute. – Bernama, March 11, 2019.

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