International Trade and Industry (Miti) Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said a full schedule of meetings at the ministerial and official levels for the RCEP talks had been planned for next year as part of the commitment to complete the process.
While admitting that the deadline for the RCEP negotiations had been extended several times, he said at a media briefing that talks were ongoing and that “negotiations will be substantially completed by the end of next year”.
Asked whether the RCEP negotiations would be more urgent now that President-elect Donald Trump said the United States would not be ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Mustapa said: “You can say that”.
RCEP negotiations, involving Asean together with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, first started in November 2012. RCEP has long been viewed as an alternative to the TPP, an initiative of the United States. There have been 15 rounds of talks for the RCEP, the most recent being held in Tianjin, China in October.
Mustapa had earlier presided over the official launch of Miti’s office in Hanoi, the fourth such office in Asean, the others being in Bangkok, Jakarta and Singapore.
Present at the launch was Vietnam’s deputy minister of industry and trade Do Thang Hai.
A 40-strong delegation of senior Malaysian business executives and consultants from the Kuala Lumpur Business Club (KLBC) and Asean Business Club (ABC) was also with him, to meet with counterparts from the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Dr Doan Duy Khuong, vice executive president of the chamber.
The KLBC was led by CIMB Group Holdings Bhd group chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz, also president of the club while the ABC was led by Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, also the CIMB Asean Research Institute chairman.
Zafrul will be opening CIMB Group’s first branch in Hanoi on Friday after receiving a full banking license from the Vietnamese government.
These executives were there to explore potential trade and investment opportunities in Vietnam as well as strengthening ties. Mustapa said Vietnamese businesses were particularly interested in investing in Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s multi-billion US dollar Pengerang project located in southern Johor.
Bilateral trade between Malaysia and Vietnam have increased in recent years, rising to US$9.3bil (RM41.2bil) in 2015 from US$2.2bil (RM9.7bil) in 2005. In terms of investment, Malaysia was the seventh largest source of foreign direct investment for Vietnam, with US$12bil in 547 projects across various industries.
Vietnam’s investments in Malaysia in the last two years have amounted to US$190mil, largely in manufacturing, information and communications technology, oil and gas exploration and trading.