November 17, 2016 12:00 pm JST

A TPP without the US? Najib says no

CK TAN, Nikkei staff writer

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says it was he who first ordered probes of a troubled state investment fund, and he charges that the issue has been politicized by "certain elements." Malaysian authorities, including a bipartisan parliamentary committee, have concluded that weaknesses existed in the management of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, but none of its executives has been charged with any embezzlement so far. Still, authorities in Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S. are probing entities and people related to 1MDB for possible money laundering and other offenses. In written responses to questions from the Nikkei Asian Review, ahead of a three-day visit to Tokyo, Najib also said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will not be implemented without the U.S.

Foreign governments are investigating misappropriation of funds related to 1MDB. Do you consider these actions as interference? Malaysian authorities have actually led the way in investigations into 1MDB. It was I who first instructed multiple authorities in Malaysia to conduct investigations. For example, the company has been the subject of investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the auditor general, the police and the bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, which includes opposition politicians. I have always made clear that full cooperation should be extended to any investigation provided it is in accordance with the laws of our country. Furthermore, as I have consistently stated, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception. However, it is important to note that this has become a highly politicized matter, with certain elements within Malaysia attempting to exploit this for their own personal political benefit, and feeding foreign authorities with at times false or incomplete information.

If the U.S. fails to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, how will Malaysia react? While we are aware of President-elect Donald Trump's stated views on the agreement, it would be premature for us to make any conclusions before he assumes office. In its current guise, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement cannot come into force without the United States' involvement. As such, it is not a question of whether or not Malaysia -- or any other country for that matter -- could still proceed with its ratification. Whether the TPP proceeds or not, we remain committed to strengthening our economic and trade ties with the U.S. and the other countries involved.

Malaysia has deepened economic and defense ties with China recently. While Malaysia and China have enjoyed a strong relationship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974, the ties between our two countries have reached new levels over recent years, and this is a trend we expect to continue. This is not surprising given that China is our largest trading partner and accounts for over 15% of trade outside our borders. Having said that, Malaysia's relationship with any one country does not come at the expense of its relationship with any other country. And as far as the United States is concerned, this is a relationship we place great importance on. We hope to further enhance our relationship under President-elect Trump.

What is Malaysia's stance on the ruling in The Hague on China's maritime claims? Malaysia has consistently held, and expressed, the view that all claims in the South China Sea must be based [on] and resolved in accordance with international law. We believe it is important for all parties to respect diplomatic and legal processes and resolve any disputes and differences peacefully through negotiations.

What is the most important factor in deciding the bidding for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project? The planned HSR service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will be the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by our country. This is something we are tremendously excited about, and we are committed to an objective, transparent and competitive selection process in the form of a public tender to find the best railway system. The (Japanese) shinkansen system's long record of safety, reliability and excellence ensures that it will be a competitive player in the bidding process.

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