With TPP gone, RCEP is now more urgent: Malaysian PM

New Delhi,  With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being buried by the US, negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement should be concluded latest by early 2018, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday.

“It is more relevant now than before that we conclude RCEP. With the TPP gone, we need RCEP as a free trade arrangement for this area,” Razak said.

He was addressing the ‘India Malaysia Business Forum’ here organised jointly by industry chambers Ficci, Assocham and CII along with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority.

“We should urge the negotiators to try and conclude the RCEP negotiations by the end of this year (2017), or latest by early next year (2018),” he said.

The 16-member RCEP is composed of the 10 Asean members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam — and their six free trade agreement partners — India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

After assuming office on January 20, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the TPP agreement that it had signed with Japan and 10 other Pacific-Rim nations.

TPP was described as the largest regional trade pact in history.

RCEP negotiations were launched in 2015. The 16 countries account for over a quarter of the world’s economy, estimated to be more than $75 trillion.

Addressing the gathering earlier, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India was looking forward to Razak’s guidance on RCEP negotiations.

“We have a great ongoing engagement with Malaysia on RCEP negotiations, in a world where TPP has collapsed and plurilateral agreements are in retreat,” Sitharaman said.

“The RCEP will bring tremendous gain to the emerging economies and the entire Southeast Asian region,” she added.