Malaysia may ratify trade pact but will seek exemptions, says Mahathir

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says Malaysia has to study very carefully the terms of the CPTPP. (Bernama pic)

TOKYO: Malaysia is still studying the implications and potential impact of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) before deciding whether to ratify the trade pact, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The prime minister said Malaysia has to study very carefully the terms of the CPTPP and to see how it will affect Malaysia’s efforts to distribute wealth in the country in an equitable manner.

He said although there is a possibility Malaysia will ratify the CPTPP, the country will ask for some exemptions.

“We will study that… although the negotiations have been concluded, it has not been ratified,” he told Malaysian media on the final day of his three-day working visit to Japan.

The CPTPP is a rebranded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that “collapsed” after the United States withdrew in January 2017 under President Donald Trump, and so far, six countries have ratified the agreement.

Mahathir said Malaysia is different from other countries as it is a multiracial nation.

“The distribution of wealth between the races is not fair, in the sense that some are rich and some are poor. Disparities between the rich and the poor even in a single ethnic group will lead to confrontation and violence

“What’s more if the poor belonged to one race and the rich belonged to another race. That will cause tension, anger, envy and bad feelings. We want to avoid that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mahathir said Malaysia would seek Japan’s assistance on investment in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry in a bid to take the country’s technology to a more advanced level.

He said he had a meeting with Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank, who has investing expertise in the field.

“Originally, we were interested in appointing him as one of the directors of Khazanah Nasional but he said he would be ineffective as an adviser as he is more perceptive in the field of investment.

“He showed us the way to invest through his organisation. He used to invest only from here (Japan) but now he has invested in Arab countries.

“He concentrates only on artificial intelligence and is ready to help us address our financial problems,” Mahathir said.

The prime minister described his three-day visit to Japan since Monday as very successful and cited a meeting with Japanese businessmen where he was asked many questions pertaining to Malaysia’s development.

“They were very friendly and each one of them expressed a desire to help in Malaysia’s recovery effort. I believe it was not just sweet talk. They also showed understanding towards the country’s (fiscal) woes,” he said.