Protesters have called on the Malaysian government to reject the 12-nation trade alliance ahead of a parliamentary debate. The prime minister has defended the agreement, saying Malaysia's economy will benefit greatly.
Thousands of Malaysians took to the capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to protest the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), calling on the government to reject the agreement ahead of a parliamentary debate next week.
Many of the protesters in the nation's capital were from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which fears the country could lose control of its economy and sovereignty if it joins the 12-nation trade alliance.
"This (TPP) will only help the rich people. It will not help the poor people in Malaysia and I don't see any benefits for my family and I," Mohamed Noor Ismail, a student who attended the protests, told the AFP news agency.
Police said that 2,000 to 3,500 people were involved in the demonstration.
In October, a total of 12 Pacific Rim nations reached an agreement to create the world's largest free trade zone, including Australia, Japan, US, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Canada and Brunei.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's government claims the trade agreement will greatly benefit the country's economy, adding that it cannot afford to exclude itself from a trade zone that would account for nearly 40 percent of the global economy.
However, critics say the TPP will undermine Malaysia's sovereignty by allowing corporations to sue the country.
They also argue that the trade deal will drastically increase the cost of medicines due to stringent intellectual property clauses.
Countries involved in the TPP have two years after signing the agreement to formally ratify it at a national level before the agreement mechanisms take effect.
ls/jlw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)