Malaysia has called on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) member countries – especially the US – to focus on the market access element, namely capacity building and technical assistance as part of its initiative.
International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said the IPEF was an instrument of economic diplomacy that aimed to strengthen cooperation between member countries.
He said the IPEF was different from other free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as it had 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 the question-and-answer session at the Dewan Rakyat today.
Azmin was responding to a question by Wong Hon Wai (PH-Bukit Bendera) about the difference between the IPEF and CPTPP and how Malaysia can balance economic diplomacy with China which is not a member of the IPEF.
The IPEF currently comprises 14 countries: the US, Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Azmin said the IPEF was able to boost economic resilience and competitiveness, regional interconnectivity and prosperity, as well as assist in the post-pandemic economic recovery process.
He said 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.
He said Malaysia's involvement in the first pillar was important as the country did not have a bilateral economic cooperation platform with the US apart from the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
"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 the issuance of withhold release orders to Malaysian companies," he said.