Malaysian parliament approves motion to join Pacific Partnership trade pact

The trade pact aims at radically liberalizing trade between 12 Pacific rim countries.

Malaysian parliament has approved the government's move to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Dewan Rakyat approved the government motion after a two-day debate with 127 lawmakers supporting and 84 opposing.

The government now has to table the motion for approval in the Senate ahead of the signing of the pact on February 4.

"This was the biggest challenge I have faced in my career as a minister, I have never been involved in something so complicated," said Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, the minister for International Trade and Industry.

"This is because the TPPA had raised a lot of concerns, some of them unfounded and I get many views and criticisms from various parties," he said, according to the Sun.

The ambitious trade pact that aims at radically liberalizing trade between 12 Pacific rim countries had raised serious objections in Malaysia as well as in other member countries.

Besides Malaysia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei are signatories to the deal.

Malaysia has been one of the early supporters of the pact as the government believes that as a country that depends on exports of commodities, minerals and electronics, it will greatly benefit from joining the trade bloc.

However, opposition to the pact has been strong in the country, led by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), which is worried that the country will lose control over the economy when the pact comes into effect.

The opposition also says jobs in the small and medium scale businesses, which employ more than 65 percent of the workforce in the country, will be lost when the agreement comes into effect.

Covers 40 percent of world economy

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed in October 2015 after five years of discussions and negotiations.

The deal, which covers around 40 percent of the world economy, has to be ratified by all member countries.

Economists have estimated that in the US, the pact will result in a jump in real incomes to the tune of $131 billion annually, or 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, the New York Times reported this week.

According to the independent analysis by international economists Peter A. Petri of the Brandeis International Business School and Michael G. Plummer of Johns Hopkins University, the pact will also benefit other countries.

While the US will make the most gains, the pact will also generate "substantial gains for Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam as well, and solid benefits for other members," the report said, NYT reported.

The pact visualizes the abolition of 89 percent of tariffs products such as dairy, beef, sugar, wine, rice, horticulture and seafood, manufactured products, resources and energy.

"This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products," President Barack Obama had said after signing the agreement.

China, which was left out of the deal, cautiously welcomed the deal saying it was one of the key free trade agreements for the Asia-Pacific region but said it was going ahead with a rival free trade pact.