Malaysia’s Mahathir calls for TPP review

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Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is calling for a review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, saying smaller economies like Malaysia are at a disadvantage under the current terms.

In an interview with Japan’s Nikkei published on Saturday, Mahathir said the 11-member trade pact – which includes Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Japan – should take into consideration the level of development of various countries.

“Small, weaker economies must be given a chance to protect their products,” Mahathir told the Japanese financial daily. “We have to review” the TPP.

Mahathir’s call to review the TPP agreement would be a blow for the deal, which was finalised after tough negotiations earlier this year following the withdrawal of one of the original signatories, the United States.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as it is now called following the US withdrawal, will reduce tariffs in countries that together amount to more than 13 per cent of the global economy – a total of $US10 trillion in gross domestic product. With the United States, it would have represented 40 per cent.

Mahathir did not reject the significance of agreements such as the TPP and he did not say whether he would consider leaving the trade pact altogether, Nikkei reported.

The 92-year-old took over as Malaysia’s prime minister last month after a stunning election victory over Najib Razak, promising to stamp out corruption and lower living costs.

He has immediately embarked on reviewing several projects and agreements signed by the Najib government. The premier has pulled out of a high speed rail project with Singapore and is reviewing a $US14 billion local rail line to be built by Chinese companies.

In the Nikkei interview, Mahathir said his government “must review all agreements” entered into by the previous administration, including infrastructure, trade and security pacts.

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