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Free trade agreement with Malaysia opens up education, telco sectors

The Australian, Canberra

Free trade agreement with Malaysia opens up education, telco sectors

By Jason Ng, Dow Jones Newswires

22 May 2012

Malaysia and Australia signed a free trade agreement that will allow Malaysia to export all goods duty-free into Australia once the deal comes into force on January 1, 2013.

In return, Australian exporters will enjoy a reduction of up to 99 per cent on goods tariffs by 2020, Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed, said.

Some of the tariff reductions given to Australia haven’t been granted to any of Malaysia’s other FTA partners, he added.

Malaysia will also allow Australian companies to hold 100 per cent equity in private higher-education services and telecommunications companies, as well as up to 70 per cent equity in insurance and investment banking firms once the agreement is in effect, Mr Mustapa said.

Australia, meanwhile, will be committed to allowing Malaysian participation in hospital services. It will also help Malaysian companies set up traditional and complementary medicine services.
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The agreement, for which negotiations began in 2005, is Malaysia’s sixth bilateral FTA after its deals with Japan, Pakistan, New Zealand, Chile and India.

While Malaysia has also signed off on the Asean-Australia New Zealand FTA, the new agreement will let it export goods tax-free into Australia earlier, Mr Mustapa said. Under the Asean-Australia New Zealand FTA, Australia will only eliminate taxes on goods from the Association of South-East Asian Nations by 2020.

Australia, whose nearly $1.5 trillion economy is about six times larger than Malaysia’s, is among the South-East Asian country’s 12 largest trading partners, with total trade amounting to $US12.4 billion ($12.5bn) at the end of 2011. Malaysia was Australia’s 10th-largest trading partner in 2011.