New Straits Times | 8 December 2014
TPP must be a done deal in 2015: US-Asean Business Council
By RUPA DAMODARAN
KUALA LUMPUR: The Trans Pacific Partnership can and must be a done deal in 2015 as it provides the best “political opportunity” for the United States.
Marc Mealy, who is vice president (policy) in the US-Asean Business Council, described the deadline for next year requires precision clocking to enable a rational legislative approach to see the 21st century trade deal come through.
Apart from the US, the 12-member grouping of the TPP consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The TPP negotiations, which missed two important datelines looked as they would be up against a challenging event in the US last month – the midterm elections when the Republicans took charge of the decision-making Congress.
There have been numerous news reports saying President Barack Obama could face a lot of heat from the Congress in getting it to approve the Trade Promotion Authority, a fast track approval system for international trade deals.
Mealy is confident that the TPA would be available early next year.
“We can expect the TPA to be in place in the first quarter and for the done deal to take place in the second quarter. In the third quarter, the packaged deal will be placed before the Congress.
“Any delay (to this timeline) would see politics shift. The 85 per cent incumbents in Congress don’t like to talk about trade votes ahead of the next general elections in 2016.”
Mealy was speaking about the US midterm elections and its implications for the Asia-Pacific and Malaysia during the ISIS International Affairs Forum last week.
American multinational corporations will work aggressively to push for the TPP even if it means intense lobby efforts with the lawmakers.
Mealy expects there would be adequate votes from the powerful lobby exercise which may not necessarily see the US walking away from the negotiating table with everything it wished for.
The next round of negotiations is expected to take place in Washington.
Negotiations have been held up mostly due to the lack of compromise from the US and Japan for market access for some of their products including automotive,beef, pork, wheat and rice.
To Mealy, domestic politics have also been playing out the scene about the TPP to some of the countries like Japan and Malaysia, he said.
“For the region, a lot of pivot balance runs through south east Asia and Asean is the focus.”
The US is excited about Malaysia holding the Asean chair next year and its leadership in pushing forward with the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
There would be opportunities for collaboration bilaterally between the governments as well as for businesses which can use the platform in a third country.
On the AEC, Mealy said Malaysia is well-positioned to benefit from it. Malaysia and other nine partners can pursue their own trade promotions as they compete with Asian giants China and India.
He also said the economic diversity which Malaysia has helps it to be resilient in the wake of the global slump in crude oil prices.
The softening oil prices could lend a negative impact in terms of the revenue and lend challenges towards fiscal consolidation efforts.
"In contrast, from the consumer point of view, the lower energy prices mean that you will spend less on energy, save more to invest on your children’s education and purchase other goods and services."