Malaysia To Be At Disadvantage If Not In CPTPP

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 (Bernama) -- Malaysian companies would tend to be at a huge disadvantage should the country decide to not participate in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and will lose out to Vietnam in terms of trade investment flows.

Asian Trade Centre Executive Director Deborah Elms said the CPTPP would be very beneficial especially for small businesses due to the seamless flow of goods, services and investments as well as protection for intellectual property.

"For some things, Vietnam still wins because they have cheaper labour costs for example, or they may have some advantages in some areas.

"But in a lot of things, Malaysia would win because in some cases (it has) a more educated population, better skills in some sectors, the (infrastructure) capacity and the ports systems are better here," she told reporters after a roundtable discussion on "ASEAN Digital Economy: Investment, Gaps and Policy Implications" here Thursday.

On Wednesday, Minister of International Trade and Industry Ignatius Darell Leiking said the government's stand on the CPTPP will be finalised by the cabinet soon.

He said Malaysia has not opted out of the pact but the new government would need some time to ensure that it would benefit the nation, adding Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also been looking into the matter.

"So many little things along the way make it easier, cheaper, faster to do business in all different sorts of areas. CPTPP is super important for small businesses and of course for the big businesses too, but I think the small and medium businesses in particular should be recommended to be in CPTPP," said Elms.

She pointed out that ASEAN governments have to strengthen their political will to develop the digital economy in the region.

The ASEAN governments need to look at four core areas to address challenges for the digital economy for small businesses, namely customs and trade facilitation for small size and small value shipments, digital services, access to information, and a cost-effective payment system.

"Those four things in particular need to be done. They are not expensive. We are not talking about new infrastructure investments, just enabling what ASEAN in particular already has," said Elms.

While regional companies have increased their investment in digital capabilities, there has not been sufficient review of existing investment policies to address the needs of the digital economy, said CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) Senior Fellow Dr Sufian Jusoh.

"Although the underlying principles and aspirations towards embracing the digital revolution have been outlined in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025, many aspects of the digital economy are not addressed when it comes to international trade and investment policymaking," he said.

Sufian added that ASEAN should look at whether the AEC 2025 blueprint can meet the challenges of the digital economy.

The roundtable was organised by CARI in collaboration with the ASEAN Business Club and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

It was chaired by CARI Chairman and ASEAN Business Club President Dr Munir Majid.