UPDATE 1-Malaysia hits back at domestic critics of Pacific trade pact
* Minister vows to protect state firms, ethnic preference policies
* Sees pact opening up new markets, from Canada to Peru
* Says Malaysia's failure to join TPP will benefit competitors
* (Adds comments by Malaysian critic)
July 28 (Reuters) - Malaysia's trade minister vowed to safeguard state-owned enterprises and policies favoring ethnic Malays in a Pacific trade deal, as he hit back at domestic critics of the pact.
Mustapa Mohamed said the Trans-Pacific Partnership would scrap tariffs on goods ranging from electrical products to palm oil and open up new markets with countries not subject to existing bilateral trade deals, such as the United States, Canada, Mexico and Peru.
Mustapa, who is attending talks in Hawaii this week aimed at finalizing the 12-nation deal, tackled concerns the agreement would undermine Malaysia's right to manage state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and policies of preferential treatment for ethnic Malays and other indigenous people, known as bumiputra.
"Malaysia is seeking flexibilities for our SOEs ... to enable them to continue with their developmental roles," he said in a statement on Tuesday, pointing to Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd and state energy firm Petronas.
"On government procurement, Malaysia is safeguarding (bumiputra) preferences by ensuring that the current (bumiputra) and (small- to medium-enterprise) preferences will be maintained." Continuación...