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Malaysia ratified to CPTPP at Singapore-chaired meeting

Bryan Wu
Bryan Wu • 6 min read
Malaysia ratified to CPTPP at Singapore-chaired meeting
L-R: Australia's Senator Tim Ayres, Minister Mary Ng of Canada, New Zealand's Minister Damien O'Connor, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, Japan's Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa and Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali of Malaysia. Photo: Bryan Wu
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Malaysia has been welcomed as the ninth member to complete its official ratification process of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, who chaired the first in-person CPTPP commission meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic, said that Malaysia’s ratification of the CPTPP will enhance the benefits of the agreement for all signatories.

“These outcomes will ensure that the CPTPP remains an ambitious agreement that brings tangible benefits to our businesses and people. This is important in our efforts towards strong and resilient economic recovery that is inclusive and sustainable for all,” he explains in a press release.

The meeting was held on Oct 7 and 8 in Singapore, this year’s chair of the CPTPP commission.

Malaysia’s ratification of the 11-member agreement will come into effect on Nov 29.

“I am pleased that we have collectively achieved the objectives we had set for Singapore’s CPTPP Chairmanship. We have advanced the implementation of the CPTPP and explored further cooperation in areas such as the digital economy and green economy,” said Gan.

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According to him, a feature of the CPTPP is that it is not just a trade agreement — it also provides a “platform for collaboration” among CPTPP members on these issues.

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement signed by 11 economies — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — that resulted from the US’s exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2016.

During his opening remarks at the press conference for the commission, Gan said that members addressed contributing to further efforts in the possible development of initiatives that promote trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and technologies through the CPTPP for the green economy

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On the digital economy front, members discussed areas such as digital trade facilitation, emerging technologies and data, as well as cooperation on uptake or digitalisation and data-driven tools on the digital economy front, added Gan, highlighting that the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) between Chile, New Zealand and Singapore originated from the CPTPP’s e-commerce chapter.

At the commission, members also took stock of the “steady progress” that had been made over the past year in implementing the agreement, as well as in reviewing its impact on trade and supply chains in conjunction with the CPTPP’s third year of entry into force, shared Gan.

Initial research findings from institutions based in the CPTPP region found a sharp recovery of intra-CPTPP trade in goods in 2021, as well as robust growth in intra-CPTPP digital services trade and amplified investment flows after implementation.

Intra-CPTPP trade increased by more than 4% to US$467 billion ($669 billion) in 2019, compared with an average of US$448 billion for the 2010 to 2018 period, while Intra-CPTPP digital services trade jumped 46% to US$51.9 billion in 2019, compared to an average of US$35.5 billion for the 2010 to 2018 period.

CPTPP members also recorded substantial foreign direct investment (FDI inflows), which increased by 10% from US$267 billion in 2018 to US$294 billion in 2019.

Membership matters

At the same press conference, Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said that the sixth commission marked a “momentous occasion” for Malaysia. “After five long years, we have finally ratified the CPTPP [and are] attending the commission meeting as a ratified party,” Azmin said.

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He added that Malaysia is “fully committed” to achieving the objectives of the partnership in deepening regional economic integration and building upon the rules-based multilateral trading system: “We firmly believe that the CPTPP will further add impetus to our ongoing economic recovery efforts, particularly in pushing forward an agenda for growth that is progressive, sustainable and inclusive.”

The joint ministerial statement also encourages the remaining signatories to intensify their efforts to complete their domestic procedures so that the agreement will enter into force for all signatories as soon as possible. Brunei and Chile are the two remaining signatories that have not officially ratified the agreement.

Meanwhile, discussions on the UK’s accession to the CPTPP are “on-going”, Gan informed the media.

“As this is the first accession by an aspirant economy, it is important that we do it well and put in place the right processes, so as to uphold the CPTPP’s high standard rules and ambition, in terms of market access commitments,” he explained.

Daishiro Yamagiwa, Japan’s Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, added that there is no fixed timeline to complete the process to admit the UK to the agreement as the focus is on maintaining high standards for accession and setting a precedent for future admission to the CPTPP. Japan is chairing the working group for the UK’s accession to the CPTPP.

The UK was the first economy outside the original 11 signatories to seek admission. China, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Taiwan have also applied to join the CPTPP.

Gan added that as the CPTPP members focus their efforts on advancing the UK’s accession process, they will also continue to address subsequent applications in accordance with the CPTPP accession process, in support of the agreement’s expansion to economies that are committed to its objectives, and are able to adhere to its “high standards”.

When asked about the Australian government’s position on China’s application to join the CPTPP, Senator Tim Ayres, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing, reiterated the stringent requirements for accession.

“This is a very high quality agreement of enormous benefit to all of the CPTPP parties. It will be strengthened by the accession of economies that demonstrate a track record of meeting the highest standards of the CPTPP,” he explained. “To that end, there is a strong sense of purpose in the discussions amongst members to first approach the initial application of the UK for CPTPP admission and to ensure that we develop, through that process, a very high standard for CPTPP accession.”

Ayres said that this is “in the interests” of continuing a strong and mutually beneficial agreement that establishes strong norms across the region for a “rules-based approach to trade” and to “economic collaboration”.

The next CPTPP commission meeting will be hosted by New Zealand in 2023.

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