TPP a trade and human rights facilitator: Obama

TPP a trade and human rights facilitator: Obama
Agencies
Kuala Lumpur

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will encourage progress and build cooperation among participating countries, said US President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the Asean Business and Investment Summit 2015, Obama highlighted benefits of the TPP itself.

"The TPP is more than just a trade pact. It is a long-term investment in security and universal human rights," he said.

Obama said the recently concluded 12-country trade pact was a win for the original signers, which include Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei.

"TPP is a win for the United States. I'm not going to be shy about this," he said, noting that the deal would open up markets for US manufacturers and agricultural producers.

"American farmers and ranchers will be able to sell more dairy, fruits, poultry and beef - and there's no steak like an American steak," he said, to the laughter of the audience.

Obama said under the TPP, Malaysia would sell more cellular phones to Mexico, Singapore could sell more medicines to Peru and Vietnam would sell more leather goods to Japan. He said the benefits go beyond trade to "include important strategic and geopolitical benefits".

"TPP is a long-term investment in our shared security and in universal human rights," he said.

"If you are negotiating with 12 countries and there's no space for everyone to agree on the deal ... then it would never get done," Obama said during a town hall at a Kuala LumpurUniversity.

"The nature of the trade agreement is so many interests are involved, so what we've done instead is close the initial deal,it's subject to review .... each country then has to ratify and it's subject to the legislatures."

Obama was responding to a question from a Malaysian youth who said the TPP was elitist and excluded most voices.

"I still have to get it past Congress," Obama added. "I believe it's a good deal and we'll get it done, but there's no guarantee."

Obama added that the TPP would also bring about positive changes relating to economic competition, advancing universal values, stronger environmental laws and enhanced labour laws.

"Of course, reforms and changes won't happen overnight. The TPP has to be adopted. Countries and companies will have to adopt and adapt. It will take time and we will help them up their game," he said.

Obama also spoke about the Mali bombings and said the US would stand with the country. He said the United States would be relentless in tackling terrorist threats and was thankful to all other parties who stood by it to combat terrorism.

Obama is in Kuala Lumpur to attend the two-day summit of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Obama used the US pharmaceutical industry as an example of resistance and how concessions needed to be made.

"We were very specific in the chapter to say that we have to protect generics for low- income persons," he said.

"Here’s proof that this wasn't just some giveaway to the drugs companies. Right now a lot of drugs companies in the United States are mad at me because they said 'how come we didn't get more protection?'

"Well, part of our job is to promote the US drug industry but part of our job is also to be good partners with countries that have people who are sick."

The pact covers countries from Japan, Canada and Australia to Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia and would slash tariffs between them and set common standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property protection.

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