Accord on revised Pacific Rim trade pact stalled

Leaders and their spouses pose for a family photo ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. (AFP / Vietnam News Agency)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Accord on revised Pacific Rim trade pact stalled

DANANG, Vietnam: Talks on a Pacific Rim trade pact abandoned by US President Donald Trump appeared to have stalled Friday as Canada balked at a basic agreement worked out in ministerial-level talks hours before.
Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January. Leaders of the 11 countries remaining in the TPP had been due to meet and endorse a deal worked out in last-minute talks overnight.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that the 11 leaders had to postpone their meeting on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam.
“It was said that it is not at a stage where (the agreement) can be confirmed at the summit level,” said Abe, who was to co-chair the meeting. He made the comments to Japanese reporters after meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, who stayed away from the planned TPP leaders’ gathering while most other leaders showed up.
There was no immediate word from Canada on its stance. However, Trudeau had said days earlier that Canada would not be rushed into an agreement.
The chances for a deal by the time the summit ends on Saturday were unclear.
Earlier in the day, officials from Japan and some other countries expressed differing opinions on whether an “agreement in principle” had been reached.
The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the US, the biggest economy and, before Trump took office, one of its most assertive supporters. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements to, as he says, “put America first.”
Vietnamese officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump reiterated his markedly different stance on trade before the 21-member APEC summit convened late Friday with a gala banquet.
The US president told an APEC business conference that “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.” He lambasted the World Trade Organization and other trade forums as unfair to the United States and reiterated his preference for bilateral trade deals, saying “I am always going to put America first.”
Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to US involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.
In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.
The Chinese president drew loud applause when he urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific.
APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues nonbinding statements. TPP commitments would eventually be ratified and enforced by its members.
But even talks this week on a declaration to cap the APEC summit had to be extended for an extra half day as ministers haggled over wording. It’s unclear what the exact sticking points were, but officials have alluded to differences over the unequal impact more open trade has had on workers and concerns over automation in manufacturing that could leave many millions in a wide array of industries with no work to do.
As a developing country with a fast-growing export sector, this year’s host country, Vietnam, has a strong interest in open trade and access for its exports to consumers in the West. The summit is an occasion for its leaders to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to foreign investment and trade. Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.
APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.


Malaysia seeks to lay multiple charges against ex-premier Najib over 1MDB

Updated 31 sec ago
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Malaysia seeks to lay multiple charges against ex-premier Najib over 1MDB

Reuters

More than $4.5 billion misappropriated from 1MDB, according to US Department of Justice
PM Mahatir says investigators “have an almost perfect case” against principal suspects


the US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $700 million of that ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

KUALA LUMPUR: Embezzlement and bribery with government money are among the charges that Malaysia is looking to bring against former prime minister Najib Razak following a probe into funds allegedly looted from the state-run fund 1MDB, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday.

Mahathir told Reuters in an interview that Malaysian investigators already “have an almost perfect case” against the principal suspects who had defrauded 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and misappropriated billions of dollars in public funds.

He also described Najib, who had founded 1MDB, as playing a central role.

“He was totally responsible for 1MDB. Nothing can be done without his signature, and we have his signature on all the deals entered into by 1MDB. Therefore, he is responsible,” Mahathir said.

Having retired as prime minister in 2003 after 22 years in power, Mahathir — who is aged 92 — came out of retirement and joined the opposition to topple Najib in an election last month.

Following his stunning victory, Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB and Najib’s involvement in its operations.

As a result of an anti-kleptocracy probe, the US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $700 million of that ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Mahathir has barred Najib from leaving Malaysia, and police have searched properties linked to him, while anti-graft investigators have questioned both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and repeated last week that he did not take money from 1MDB.

Najib’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Investigators are looking to bring “a number of charges” against Najib, Mahathir said, adding those charges would be based on abuse of power when he was prime minister.
They could include “embezzlement, stealing government money, losing government money and a number of other charges. Using government money to bribe. All those things,” he said.

Mahathir said Rosmah was also being investigated in connection with 1MDB.

“Some of the money is believed to have gone to her, lots of money,” Mahathir said. “We know about this, but finding the paper trail is a bit more difficult in this case because she doesn’t sign any papers. Najib signs a lot of papers.”

Mahathir said he expected Malaysia to make its first arrest in the 1MDB case within months and “hopefully” start a trial by the end of the year.

“We are working as hard as possible at a furious pace. We think that we already have almost a perfect case,” Mahathir said.

Asked to name the targets of that case, he said, “Against Najib, against Jho Low and a few others.”

Low is a Malaysian financier, who is also seen as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal. He is regarded as close to Najib and his family.

Low’s lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.

“When we go to the courts, we will have clear evidence of the wrongdoing. We cannot afford to lose,” said Mahathir.