The Star | Tuesday January 20, 2009
‘FTA with Gulf region will boost bilateral trade’
By ROYCE CHEAH
MANAMA (Bahrain): Malaysia is hopeful that negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Malaysia can commence as soon as possible, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.
“I strongly believe that an FTA will have a significant impact in improving the status of bilateral trade and investment between Malaysia and the Gulf region which unfortunately it still small,” he said.
He said the business communities of the Gulf region would also find the prospect of an FTA very enticing because Malaysia could be used as a platform to penetrate the Asean market and other lucrative markets of Malaysia’s FTA partners such as Japan, China and South Korea.
Abdullah, who was in Bahrain for a two-day official visit, will continue his tour of the Gulf region with an official visit to Qatar today.
He also said that Malaysia would like to see greater engagement with Bahrain in Islamic banking and finance.
He said Malaysia had pioneered modern Islamic banking practices long before other countries did the same while Bahrain was recognised as a major Islamic banking and financial centre as well.
“We have been recognised as spearheading the world’s first global sovereign sukuk (Syariah compliant bonds or shares) and we are also the host of the Islamic Financial Services Board,” he said in his keynote speech at a business forum here.
He added that both countries needed to find new ways to spur economic growth and said that Malaysia was confident of achieving positive GDP growth this year.
Abdullah also touched on the various economic corridors which have been launched and told the Bahraini business community that specialised incentive packages were being offered to interested parties.
Earlier at the delegation meeting between Malaysia and Bahrain, a senior Malaysian government official said Abdullah had told the meeting that although relations were friendly, there needed to be more substance.
“Malaysia was the first country from South-East Asia to establish relations with Bahrain,” Abdullah was quoted as saying.