Malaysia may not get a first-mover advantage if it were to adopt a wait-and-see attitude and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) later, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said.
He reiterated that Malaysia, among others, managed to protect preferences for bumiputera, small businesses and the local halal industry during the trade deal negotiations.
If Malaysia were to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, it may lose all the advantages negotiated if it decides to join the TPPA later, he added.
"We have to renegotiate (the deal) if we were to join it later, but we may not get all those items back " he told reporters following a briefing on the TPPA at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi today.
At the gathering attended by more than 500 academicians and students, Mustapa elaborated on the trade pact and rebutted criticism that the ministry was not being opaque about the negotiations.
Responding to an issue highlighted by Kelana Jaya Member of Parliament Wong Chen that the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC)'s analysis showed that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and exports could only grow an extra 0.22 per cent at most under the TPPA and there would be a risk of a 30 per cent dip in balance of trade, Mustapa said Malaysia's trade would still be in surplus.
TPPA could diversify our trade
"PWC report shows that there would be benefits and challenges, but overall, the pact gives more benefits than challenges.
"The government realises that we need to boost our export, as such we came up with initiatives like the establishment of the National Export Council, and we have introduced several measures in order to be more aggressive in our export and explore new markets.
"TPPA itself is an instrument that could diversify our trade so as not to become dependent solely on East Asia like China," he said.
On the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), another proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six states, of which Asean has existing FTAs, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, Mustapa said the government is committed in seeing its completion by end of this year.
"TPPA shall motivate the conclusion of RCEP. The next meeting would be in February and we will intervene at the ministerial level if there were not much progress made," he added.
The TPPA, which involved 12 countries, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam, and Malaysia, accounts for almost 40 percent of the world's GDP and a third of global trade.
A special parliamentary session to decide on Malaysia's participation in the TPPA is scheduled for Jan 26 and 27, followed by a special session of the Senate on Jan 28.