DIPLOMACY: ANALYSIS

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Shinzo Abe and Najib Razak team up to keep their TPP ambitions alive

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016, 10:34pm

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Abdul Razak agreed on Wednesday to remain committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, despite the pact’s diminishing chances of ­obtaining the US ratification required to bring it into force.

We are on the same page ... we hope that the TPP agreement will come into force
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

“We are on the same page – we have passed the resolution in our parliament to participate in the TPP, and the way is clear for Malaysia to go ahead with the TPP and we hope that the TPP agreement will come into force,” Najib told a joint press conference following talks with Abe in Tokyo.

The Japanese Diet’s upper house is currently deliberating bills that passed the lower house last week to approve the pact, which it signed with Malaysia, the United States and nine other Pacific Rim nations in February.

Abe’s meeting scheduled on Thursday in New York with US President-elect Donald Trump “is very much awaited by all TPP countries”, Najib said, adding that he hopes the strategic importance of TPP will be recognised by the ­incoming administration.

Trump has pledged to pull the United States out of the TPP as soon as he takes office on January 20, while a White House official has said current US President Barack Obama has given up on pressing Congress to approve the pact before the end of his term.

In yesterday’s bilateral summit, Abe also made an appeal to Najib over Japan’s interest in a proposed high-speed railway line linking Malaysia’s biggest city of Kuala Lumpur with Singapore.

Japan is set to pitch its shinkansen high-speed rail technology for the project when bidding opens late next year, as part of Abe’s strategy to grow infrastructure exports.

“I expressed [to Najib] my strong expectation that Japan’s shinkansen technology will be adopted,” Abe said.

As Malaysia PM Najib visits, Japan to compete with China for high-speed rail project

Najib said he reassured Abe that the process of decision will be done in “an open, transparent and objective manner”, acknowledging that the project was ­“uppermost in the minds of the government of Japan”.

Najib’s visit comes on the heels of his trip two weeks ago to China, seen as becoming Japan’s closest competitor for the project. Japan lost out to China in bidding in September last year for a high-speed rail link in Indonesia between Jakarta and Bandung.