Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia remains keen on free trade talks with the US. NST photo by EIZAIRI SHAMSUDIN

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia continues to have its eyes in the prize as far as trade matters with the US is concerned as the American economy is the biggest in the world.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia is constantly engaged proactively with the Americans in discussion as the US is also its third biggest trading partner.

Mustapa was speaking at a press concerence after delivering the keynote speech at one-day SME Export Day conference jointly organised by MITI, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade), and Panpages at his Ministry yesterday.

"Last night, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and among the issues discussed was trade and we believe there will be constructive engagement between Malaysia and the US on economic matters," he said, when answering a question regarding the status of Trans Pacific Partnership.

He said Malaysia remained hopeful, but was also actively engaged in a myriad of other free trade agreements in the nation's interest at the same time.

"RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) is moving parallel with TPP. As TPP is still relevant and we are hopeful as we have invested a lot of time and money on the negotiations and reaching an agreement on TPP.

"We are working closely with other TPP countries (following US pulling out of the deal), and there is a meeting hosted by Australia later this month on the way forward with TPP as we have not given up," Mustapa said.

On the RCEP, he said the collective had met 19 times already at the official level and seven times at the ministerial level, and another meeting is scheduled in September in Manila.

He said he will be giving members of parliament an update on RCEP today (Aug 10),

On SME Export Day, Mustapa said it was being held in conjunction with Asean's 50th anniversary on Tuesday.

"We have organised this event where SMEs who have successfully exported their products and services to other ASEAN countries could exchange ideas and experiences with SMEs just embarking on efforts to export their products & services," he said.

Mustapa said the ministry will assist SMEs to leverage on Malaysian diplomatic missions and also trade offices in Asean to help them penetrate the regional market.

In 2016, export contributions from SMEs to the nation reached 17.8 per cent and Mustapa said Malaysia has a target of taking this figure to 23 per cent by 2020.

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