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(file pix) Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, left, and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key react, during the Gala Dinner at the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. AP Photo

KUALA LUMPUR: There is heightened interest now among some ASEAN members towards the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) trade pact.

Indonesia and the Philippines, for one, have both expressed an interest in joining the pact, following in the footsteps of Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam, while Thailand is reportedly considering it.

Other members of the TPP include the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong said his country would require at least three years to study the 6,000-page TPP document and assess its impact on the economy.

President Benigno Aquino III, on the other hand, was reported as saying that the Philippines would consider joining the TPPA, as it would offer a far larger market.

The TPP will create a collective population of about 800 million and almost double that of the European Union’s single market, with the 12-nation bloc representing 40 per cent of global trade.

If the deal goes through, it will also create the biggest free trade area in the world, and estimated to add more than US$200 billion annually to the global economy by 2025.

US President Barack Obama, who was in Malaysia for the 27th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, said Southeast Asian economies might stand to lose if they did not join the mega-free trade agreement as most of the economies were highly dependent on trade.

“The TPP is more than just a trade pact. It also has important strategic and geopolitical values.

“We know from experience that when trade is done right, it can help progress,” he said, during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2015, part of the five-day ASEAN Summit which began on Nov 18.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said Malaysia would continue to support the addition of new members into the pact, including China, as the TPP should be as inclusive as possible.

While the TPPA would widen the international trade window for small countries with relatively small domestic markets, there are some who feel countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines should not rush into it.

Rather, they should consider the pros and cons, as well as prepare for potential outcomes by enhancing competitiveness on the international trade front. --Bernama

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