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Australia wants access to Malaysian govt procurement market in trade deal

AFX News Limited

Australia wants access to Malaysian govt procurement market in trade deal

25 August 2006

KUALA LUMPUR (XFN-ASIA) - Australia wants access to Malaysia’s government procurement market, which currently favors the country’s majority ethnic Malays, enshrined in a free trade deal, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said.

Vaile said free trade agreement (FTA) talks have so far been ’constructive and positive’, but that his country wants them to extend to procurement.

’It’s always an objective,’ Vaile told reporters here after meeting Southeast Asian economic ministers to discuss a wider trade pact with the region.

’It’s important for both sides, and I pointed out to some colleagues here the opportunities that exist in accessing the Australian government procurement market as well,’ he said.

’It’s not just a one-way street, it’s a two-way issue.’

Vaile said Australia understands Malaysia’s concerns, but is optimistic about finding a solution for the deal, as well as the agreement being negotiated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and New Zealand.

’We understand ... the domestic restrictions as far as some programs are concerned,’ he said.

’We’d like to think that there is probably a creative way we can address that in a bilateral and an agreement with the ASEAN countries but that’s work in progress.’

Vaile said Australia is also looking for ways to boost investment in Malaysia in the talks.

’One of the challenges is how we improve the opportunity for further investment flows into Malaysia out of Australia, and of course that goes without saying in the Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN negotiation as well,’ he said.

Australia and Malaysia agreed to launch free trade talks in April last year with the aim of finishing negotiations by the middle of this year.

Annual bilateral trade between the countries amounts to some 7.5 bln usd and Malaysia is Australia’s ninth-largest trade partner.