Bernama | July 25, 2008
EFTA & Hong Kong Keen On FTA With Malaysia, Says Muhyiddin
From Mohd Arshi Mat Daud
GENEVA, July 25 (Bernama) — The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Hong Kong are keen to establish a free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia, said Minister of International Trade and Industry Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin Thursday.
The interest was expressed by his counterparts from Switzerland and Hong Kong, who are participating in a meeting of over 30 trade ministers, convened by the World Trade Organization.
The meeting here, held since Monday, is aimed at narrowing differences to facilitate a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations by the end of 2008.
Speaking to Bernama after his bilateral meetings with Switzerland Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Industry Rita Lau Ng, Muhyiddin said Switzerland, as a major member of EFTA has suggested Malaysia to form FTA with the trade bloc.
As a group, the EFTA which combines Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, is the worlds 15th biggest trader and has a market of 12 million people.
Switzerland itself is interested to explore new markets for its financial services and high-precision technology industry, said Muhyiddin.
He felt that the scope for investment by Swiss companies in Malaysia is still limited with major investment only by a handful of corporations including Nestle, a multinational packaged food company.
Muhyiddin noted that among EFTA countries, Malaysia’s bilateral trade with Switzerland was the highest, valued over RM6 billion.
"We have agreed that we should sign beforehand a Joint Economic Cooperation (JEC) deal before continuing with FTA negotiations with EFTA. Hopefully, we are able to conclude the JEC before the end of this year."
Similarly, with Hong Kong, Malaysia had proposed a JEC to be inked before proceeding with FTA negotiation. "For the FTA, we need to get a mandate from the Cabinet first," said Muhyiddin.
He added that as a country 90 percent dependent on financial services for its economy, Hong Kong was eyeing new markets in the same sector in Malaysia.
Muhyiddin said he proposed to Lau that Hong Kong companies should consider setting up joint ventures with Malaysian companies not only in financial services but also in small and medium industries.