International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking stressed that Malaysia was scrutinising the terms of the RCEP to ensure that it provided fair trade that would bring economic benefits to its people.. NSTP Pic courtesy of MITI.

SINGAPORE: With all 16 countries protecting their sovereignty and interest, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations ended well and is now moving on to the next level, says Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking.

“All 16 countries have accepted the ‘mutually beneficial and fair’ terms that would be used throughout future negotiating processes,” he said in a wrap-up session with Bernama, after leading the Malaysian delegation to the RCEP meeting during the five-day 50th Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings which ends on Sept 2.

He noted that the agreed term was in line with the aspiration of the current Malaysian government led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“The terms are in tandem with the principle of Malaysia, under the leadership of Dr Mahathir, who has emphasised, time and again, that all negotiations must be conducted on a fair and just manner and benefit all Malaysians,” he added.

As a new administration, Darell stressed that Malaysia was scrutinising the terms of the RCEP to ensure that it provided fair trade that would bring economic benefits to its people.

“We will bring home what we have discussed here and present them to our Prime Minister and Cabinet members for the next step in negotiations,” he said.

“Dr Mahathir has the wisdom to decide whether we should finally sign the RCEP or otherwise,” he added.

RCEP is a proposed free-trade agreement between 10 ASEAN member countries, as well as, six Asia Pacific countries, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The free trade agreement was officially launched at the 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia and it took centre stage after President Donald Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

RCEP has a population of 3.4 billion, with a total gross domestic product (GDP) of US$49.5 trillion (US$1=RM4.10), or about 39 per cent of the world’s GDP.

Without taking any credit for himself, Darell noted that: “For us in Malaysia, our negotiators have done their best. They discussed in depth and have identified what is good and beneficial for Malaysia.”

Malaysia’s team of negotiators was led by MITI Secretary-General Datuk Isham Ishak.

At the just-ended Singapore round, two additional chapters have been concluded, namely the chapter on ‘Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation’ and another on ‘Government Procurement’ – bringing the total concluded chapters, to-date, to four.

There will be a trade negotiating committee meeting in Auckland in October, followed by a ministerial meeting, to intensify negotiations towards ‘substantial conclusion’ by year-end.--BERNAMA

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