Obama denies Washington is bullying M'sia in TPPA negotiations (Updated)

PUTRAJAYA: US President Barack Obama has denied that Washington is bullying Malaysia in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Instead, he said, he himself was being bullied by his own (Democratic) party on the pact while protests against the agreement was more due to "people being fearful of the future or have invested in the status quo."

"It is important for everybody to wait and see what is the (final) agreement before they jump into conclusions," he said in response to a question that Washington was bullying Kuala Lumpur in negotiations for the TPPA at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak here today.

He said it was understandable that there will be objections, protests, accusations of political conspiracies, which is true not only for the US and Malaysia, but for all the negotiating countries.

In looking ahead towards a conclusion of the TPPA negotiations, he said that "countries and companies must be ready to take the next leap."

Obama said he strongly believed that the TPPA was the right thing as it created jobs and businesses which would benefit countries such as Malaysia that are transitioning from labour-intensive orientation to high-skilled-labour driven.

"It's going to be good for countries like Malaysia that have been growing rapidly but are interested in making that next leap to the higher value aspect of the supply chain that can really boost income growth and development," he said.

Responding to a question on expensive medicine after the TPPA was concluded, Obama said American companies have done extrordinary work in research and development to provide medical breakthroughs that saved lives around the world and those companies that have made the investments for the research wanted returns.

He, however, said all parties in the TPPA have agreed to find a way to make sure that medicine would be available for the people who cannot afford it, describing it as a "common humanity".

"Both of those values are reflected in the conversations and negotiations that are taking place around the TPP," he stressed.

Najib, in earlier comments, expressed confidence that the overall benefits of the TPPA would far outweigh the disadvantages of the pact which is still being negotiated by 12 Pacific rim economies although there would be some losers and gainers.

He also said Washington understood Malaysia's domestic sensitivities as evident during his bilateral talks with Obama earlier.

Obama also said the TPPA would benefit Malaysia in achieving high-income nation status by 2020.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said Malaysia was committed to the process of getting the acceptance of the people as far as the TPPA was concerned.

"We went to the TPP on our won accord. We were not bullied into it," the Prime Minister said, adding that Malaysia was committed towards free trade and has entered into 13 separate FTA agreements with other countries so far.

He said Malaysia was a great believer in free trade and understood its benefits like boosting trade, creating wealth and jobs.

"There will be winners and losers in the process but overall the benefit is all upon us to show to the people in Malaysia that the benefit far outweigh the disadvantages of the FTA," he said.

Najib said Malaysia was committed to the process of getting the acceptance of the people before signing the TPPA by engaging with the public and present it to the Parliament.

"We are working out around the sensitive and challenges and try to iron out with the intention of working out a deal in the near future," he said.

Najib said bilateral trade between the United States and Malaysia has averaged at least US$35 billion annually from 2010 to 2013. Last year, the United States was Malaysia's largest source of foreign investment, investing US$1.9 billion in Malaysia and creating almost 8,000 new jobs. – Bernama