Malaysian police on Saturday detained 14 people protesting against ongoing negotiations for a huge trans-Pacific free-trade deal, an activist said.
Delegations from Asia-Pacific countries, Latin America and the US have been meeting in Sabah State since Monday last week to forge ahead with the pact, which would encompass 40 percent of the world’s economy.
US Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he aimed for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this year.
Malaysian activists have staged several protests against the deal, fearing it will compromise the country’s sovereignty and calling on the government to disclose details on the agreement. Eleven protesters were arrested outside the resort where trade officials were meeting on Saturday, said Syukri Razab, a coordinator with human rights group Suaram.
Three others were arrested later outside a police station where the protesters were detained, he said.
Independent news portal The Malaysian Insider quoted police as saying the protesters defied orders to disperse and were being tested for drug use.
Biden, who arrives in Asia today for a one-week official visit to India and Singapore, has said the TPP will be the perfect vehicle for updating global trade standards.
US President Barack Obama has billed the pact as a “21st-century” type of trade deal that would ensure labor and environmental standards while creating US jobs by opening up markets within the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.
Delegations from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam hope to conclude the pact before the APEC summit in Bali in October.
Malaysia relies heavily on trade, but US-Malaysia free-trade talks have been bogged down in sensitive areas, including the nation’s system of affirmative action for Muslim Malays.