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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    1-4 December  2011

TPP Intersessional Meeting to start in KL KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4
The Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intersessional meeting will begin here tomorrow, the International Trade and Industry Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry, however, said the five-day meeting was not a full negotiating round.

"The meeting only involves a few selected working groups. They are market access, investment, services, non-conforming measures, rules of origin and intellectual property rights.

"They will meet to discuss the way forward in light of the recent instructions from the TPP Leaders.

"The negotiators will also discuss the scheduling of meetings for 2012," it said in a statement.

The ministry said it has been agreed that no stakeholder (country) sessions or media briefings will be held during the course of this week's meeting.

"It has also been agreed that no bilateral discussions will be held with any country which may wish to join in the negotiations," it added.

The TPP is a nine-member trade and investment liberalisation initiative involving Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

It aims to hatch a free trade agreement which will enhance trade and investment among partner nations and set new standards in global trade conduct.

To date, nine rounds of negotiations have been held.

During the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, the TPP Leaders were presented with a broad outline of a draft agreement which highlighted the shared aspirations and ambitions of the nine participating countries.

"This was achieved despite the complexity of the issues discussed and the different developmental status of the negotiating partners," the ministry said.

TPP members are targeting to conclude negotiations in 2012, with July 2012 as an important milestone to agree on substantially all areas.

The ministry said Malaysia was strongly committed to the TPP initiative and views it as a development that will help to further integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.

When realised, the TPP will constitute a single market of nearly half a billion people, with the potential to expand even further should countries like Japan, Canada and other APEC economies join in, it said.

The ministry said implementation of the TPP would extend preferential trade to over 70 per cent of Malaysia's global trade.

"It will allow Malaysia to do business with the US on preferential trade terms. This is important as the US is Malaysia's biggest trading partner and source of investment.

"Some countries may also wish to use Malaysia as their base to penetrate other TPP markets. So, the TPP can help ensure Malaysia remains an attractive production hub for value-added products and quality investments," it said.

The ministry also said the TPP was now focused on exploring ways to support the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and integrate them into international markets.

"This would certainly benefit Malaysian SMEs which are increasingly looking to expand abroad," it said.

The ministry said the government has made it a point to consult various public institutions, including non-governmental organisations, on issues of public interest from time to time.

The ministry's most recent meetings with the NGOs to discuss free trade agreements and the TPP took place in June and August.

"The next consultation session has been fixed for Dec 14," it said.

The ministry said the government was well aware of and shared some of the concerns raised by a number of NGOs on the TPP.

It said Malaysia had negotiated many free trade agreements in the past and the government had always been conscious of its duty to protect Malaysians' interests.

"This same duty of care and concern will apply in negotiations on the TPP," it added.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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