EU set to further enhance ties with M’sia, says Ambassador

Bernama | December 30, 2008

EU Set To Further Enhance Ties With M’sia, Says Ambassador

By Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) — Come 2009, the European Union is set to further enhance its relations with Malaysia both in the political and economic fields, European Commission (EC) Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EC in Malaysia, Vincent Piket said.

"Over the past year we have seen very intensive relations and cooperation between Malaysia and EU. At the political level and policy level, we had many specific dialogues on a number of technical matters in the area of trade, education, science, information society and so forth.

"The European Union has been for some years the number one foreign investor in Malaysia and you can see very clearly the business community here. That is something that we want to build on," he told Bernama in a recent interview.

In trade terms, he said the EU was number three or four ranking trade partner depending on the exchange rate and that it planned to expand and build on that as well.

Piket, who was posted as the envoy here six months ago, said they were working on a number of high-level meetings in 2009.

"We are working on a number of meetings and it will happen next year. One meeting will be in Brussels as a matter of fact. We will be hosting the senior officials meeting between Malaysia and the European Union, in the first few days of February," he said.

He said the second key event would be a meeting to be hosted by Malaysia here in KL on the next round of negotiations on Asean Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"So that is going to be a high level meeting and that will be accompanied by the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) work at the business cooperation level.

Touching on the timber trade agreement between Malaysia and the EU, Piket said there had been six rounds of talks until now and they were now reaching the final phase.

On the current global economic meltdown, Piket said that it was slowing down all countries and Europe expected to see a recession next year.

However, Europe will be using the period to make sure that "We create a good infrastructure and a good regulatory framework, promoting investment."

According to him, the EU last week undertook a very ambitious economic stimulus package worth about 1.5 percent of its GDP and involving a host of methods taken both by the member states individually and the EU to counter the slowdown they are facing.

"In terms of our trade relations, we have argued that this is not the time for protectionism. This is the time for making sure that the trade and investment framework remains open and to continue to have level playing fields for all partners and having to see that G20 and Malaysia takes the same position," he said.

Piket said with the economic slowdown, there was a new urgency for completing the EU-Asean FTA negotiations.

On the Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Malaysia, Piket said: "We have proposed to have discussion about this agreement with Malaysia and there is a draft text prepared by the EU.

"Since it was first proposed, we have had a number of technical discussions to clarify the text."

He added that the EU was now waiting for an announcement from the Malaysian government of its intention to sit at the negotiation table and try to conclude the agreement.

The PCA is based on fundamental respect for human rights, freedom and rule of law and also on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

In terms of content, the agreement is quite ambitious and multifaceted as it covers commitment in areas as diverse as the fight against non-proliferation and elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

The other areas of coooperation include international law, combating terrorism, energy security, trade and investment, science and technology, health, organised crime, human rights, environment, migration and capacity-building.

According to Piket, in 2009, the EU will be launching three new initiatives in expanding its cooperation with Malaysia.

"First, we hope to launch a new economic development programme valued at RM40 million, very much in supportive of what is formulated in the Ninth Malaysia Plan and totally in co-interest with Vision 2020 of this country," he said.

The second would be for a loan framework agreement between Malaysia and the European investment bank, which is the prime lending institution of the EU.

He said the investment bank has a budget available for lending in Asia and "we would want to create the possibility of loans for projects here in M alaysia."

"If possible, we would like to sign this agreement with the government. and the third area is that we are initiating is business cooperation, which will focus on the services sector," Piket said.

The services sector offers an important scope for development in business cooperation between Malaysia and the EU, he said.

Apart from its economy based initiatives, Piket said the EU team in Malaysia also hoped to organise a number of public outreach activities as part of efforts to raise the profile and awareness of the EU among Malaysians including the media, academicians, students and the general public.

There is something of a gap to bridge and to do that, the team will be organising a number of activities like seminars, workshops to create a broader awareness of the EU.

For instance, on what the EU is, what it does and how it functions, how it interacts with foreign partners such as Malaysia and to create a better understanding of the community, he added.

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source: Bernama