Malaysia: Jury still out on future US economic policy

KUALA LUMPUR:Malaysia says it is monitoring United States President-elect Donald Trump's moves to appoint an administration, underling that some campaign promises may be amended when key positions are filled.

Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican told reporters at Parliament on Wednesday that the country is keen to continue bilateral ties built on "mutual respect" to ensure its future is secured as an open economy.

"We cannot rush in making assumptions as it would result in prejudgment. We will have to wait and see."

Merican, however, underlined that despite Trump promising a protective economic approach and conservative policies during his campaign, the reality could be something quite different.

"Historically, the U.S presidential elections have shown that most presidents reverse their campaign promises after victory," he claimed, stating that an anti-China stance had long been used by presidential candidates to attract voters.

"It was used as a tool by George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and even Barack Obama," Merican claimed.

"For instance, Clinton attacked China during his campaign but he was the one who convinced Congress to accept China as a World Trade Organisation [WTO] member, to ease the supply of U.S. products to China."

It is too early to make a judgment, the minister underlined.

"I also think there are some things that were promised by him [Trump] that cannot be realized as easily as he said."

When it comes to economic ties, Merican said that while the future of U.S. involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement looks gloomy, Malaysia has other trade pacts to consider.

Trump has said he will abandon U.S. involvement in the TPP upon assuming the presidency, calling the deal the death blow for American manufacturing in an appeal to working class voters.

Merican said that Malaysia is working hard to conclude a rival China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with combined membership that totals 29 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

"That is why Malaysia is taking a pragmatic approach. We cannot depend on one country or over-rely on one market for economic advantage," he added.

The RCEP is being negotiated by the 10 Southeast Asian economies, along with China, Japan, South Korea and Australia, and has long been seen as a rival to the TPP.

Since winning the U.S. election earlier this month, Trump has announced some key administration appointments.

He has named Michael T. Flynn, a retired army lieutenant general, as his national security advisor, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff.

Merican underlined that the Malaysian Foreign Ministry is currently studying the appointees.

"This is important as it would provide the signal on what we can expect from the U.S. government in the future... We are however still optimistic of a good working relationship with the U.S."

Source: Anadolu Agency