(EDS: Updating with Commerce Minister’s quotes) New Delhi, Apr 3 (PTI) Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak today pitched for early conclusion of mega regional agreement RCEP saying it will significantly boost trade and investments across nations.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is a mega pact among 16 countries including the Asean grouping as well as India, China, Japan and Australia.

“I think we should give fresh instructions to our negotiators to try to conclude RCEP by the end of the year or at a very latest early next year,” Najib said here while addressing industry leaders from chambers including Ficci.

“I hope this time table can be achieved,” he said, adding that the business communities favour moving this agenda forward for successful conclusion.

He also said RCEP has become more relevant now as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement worked out by the then Obama administration, is now “buried”.

“We do need RCEP as free trade region for this area… I am a great believer of free trade because free trade will create more wealth and more prosperity to people,” he added.

Najib also said that between 2003 and 2015, bilateral trade between India and Malaysia rose more than 4-fold but in the past couple of years, there has been a decline.

“We need to reverse that trend and hopefully 2017 is the year we see a reversal of the downward trend,” he said.

It was feared that TPP would adversely impact India’s exports.

Talking about investments, he said Malaysia is the 21st largest investor in India globally and second largest in Asean.

Seeking Indian investments, he said Malaysia provides easy and competitive business environment for investors.

He assured industry of meeting the needs of investors who are doing business in Malaysia.

“We continue to provide necessary support for a thriving business environemnt… I invite you all to come to Malaysia,” he said, adding “I strongly encourage you to look at Malaysia as a preferred choice for investments to expand and take the opportunity to forge new partnerships”.

Malaysian companies were involved in many big projects in India including construction of the MCD civic centre in the national capital.

“There is plenty more to come. I am told that at the moment four projects are being negotiated,” he said.

The projects include the Mumbai Coastal expressway; Mumbai sea front development, floating storage regasification terminal at Andhra Pradesh port and smart city mission.

“…and this does not include the 4 + 2 highway projects under consideration by Rajasthan government,” Najib added.

The Indian firms that have presence in Malaysia include Reliance, Biocon, ICICI Bank, Tech Mahindra, Ranbaxy, Wipro and TCS.

The Prime Minister also said that Malaysia is home to the largest Indian population outside India.

“Over 7 per cent of our population is of Indian origin.

Indian Malaysians play a key role in building Malaysia,” he added.

The bilateral trade in 2015-16 stood at USD 12.8 billion as against USD 17 billion in the previous fiscal.

The RCEP talks for the pact started in Phnom Penh in November 2012. The 16 countries account for over a quarter of the world’s economy, estimated to be more than USD 75 trillion.

The 16-member bloc RCEP comprises 10 Asean members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at the event, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman acknowledges the engagement of India with Malaysia in the RCEP negotiations.

She said plurilateral agreements have becoming a reality at a time when TPP has collapsed.

“The RCEP is something where the entire emerging economies and our approach towards the South East Asian countries can gain immensely,” she said.

She expressed hope for a greater understanding with Malaysia on the proposed pact.

“I seek your guidance in the RCEP and we wish to see progress,” she said, adding, “hopefully RCEP would bring in a lot of hope to the world”.

She also sought greater cooperation in various sectors, including infrastructure development.

The minister said the Indian government has almost committed USD 1 trillion towards promotion of infrastructure and Malaysia has a proven infrastructure expertise.

“In this area, there is great scope for businesses to engage in great depth,” she added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.