Trump unlikely to reverse on TPPA rhetoric

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PETALING JAYA: There will be a major revolt against US president-elect Donald Trump if he reneges on his promise to ditch the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), according to Klang MP Charles Santiago of DAP.

Santiago, a fierce opponent of the TPPA, was commenting on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s request on Wednesday for his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, to try to convince Trump to support the TPPA when they meet in New York this week.

He said such a reversal was unlikely.

He pointed out that Trump’s biggest argument during his campaign was on trade agreements such as the TPPA, noting that it was his argument for the preservation of American jobs that gained him the acceptance of US voters.

“For Trump to tell the Americans that he has made a mistake at this point in the beginning of his presidency would be suicidal,” he told FMT.

Santiago also commented on the idea of replacing the US’ place in the TPP with China or Russia, saying this was tricky considering China’s abundance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“Countries like Japan might find other allies to come on board, which means that negotiations might extend for six months to a year,” he said.

“So if they want to find some power to replace the US, they’ll have to put the agreement on hold. Assuming that China wants to come in, it will have problems with its state-owned enterprises. China is full of SOEs. It’s not going to be easy for China to come on board.”

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya professor Mohammad Abu Bakar said that Malaysia’s tilt towards China was the concern not only of western countries, but also pro-west Southeast Asian countries.

“The association with Beijing will somehow undermine their confidence in the sense that their reliance on the US will probably increase,” he said.

He added, however, that it was too early to speculate on the US’ political direction.

“We’ll have to wait for the new leadership to take over in Washington, to see whether Trump will be more assertive,” he said.

He also noted that Malaysia’s role in the Asean region was more of a cooperative one, pointing to Malaysia’s tendency to join regional pacts in order to strengthen its standing globally.

“Traditionally, Malaysia has been able to gang up with others in order to consolidate its position,” he said. I suppose that, like it or not, Malaysia has to put more faith in Asean in the long run.”