KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has called upon the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) member countries — especially the United States — to focus on the market access element, namely capacity building and technical assistance as part of its initiative.
Malaysian Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Mohamed Azmin Ali said the IPEF is an instrument of economic diplomacy that aims to strengthen cooperation between member countries.
He noted that the IPEF is different from other free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) because the IPEF has a clear market access element.
“IPEF members are countries with different backgrounds and varying development levels.
“As such, through the element of capacity building and technical assistance, we can reduce or close the development gaps between the countries,” he said during Parliament sitting question and answer time.
Mohamed Azmin said this in reply to a question by Wong Hon Wai (PH-Bukit Bendera) who asked about the difference between IPEF and CPTPP and how Malaysia can balance economic diplomacy with China which is not a member of IPEF.
IPEF currently comprises 14 countries, namely the US, Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Azmin said IPEF is able to boost economic resilience and competitiveness, regional interconnectivity and prosperity, as well as assist in the post-pandemic economic recovery process.
According to him, the proposed inclusion of the market access element was submitted during the virtual two-day IPEF ministerial level meeting which started on Tuesday.
He also expressed Malaysia’s readiness to participate in all four pillars of the IPEF framework, namely trade; supply chains; clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure; tax and anti-corruption.
The minister said Malaysia’s involvement in the first pillar is important since the country does not have a bilateral economic cooperation platform with the US, apart from the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
“The IPEF is seen as a suitable platform for both countries to discuss various matters related to trade such as sharing efforts to improve Malaysia’s position in the Trafficking in Persons Report.
“(We are also) able to increase cooperation with the US government to strengthen Malaysia’s ability to comply with the latest international regulations and standards and further reduce Withhold Release Order (WRO) issuance to Malaysian companies,” he said.
Malaysia and the US started the TIFA negotiations in May 2004, but the negotiations were no longer active when negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) started under the Barrack Obama administration.