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Malaysia and Australia set to enter new era with FTA

Bernama, Malaysia

Malaysia And Australia Set To Enter New Era With FTA

From Minggu Simon Lhasa

31 July 2006

MELBOURNE, July 31 (Bernama) — Economic relations between Malaysia and Australia are set to enter a new era when the two countries conclude a free trade agreement (FTA).

However, the business community should be realistic and pragmatic about what to expect from the ongoing negotiations between Malaysia and Australia on the FTA, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz.

"We should recognise that in some areas there are difficulties in terms of market opening and economic objectives in terms of policy," she said at the "Seminar on Business Opportunities in Malaysia" here today.

The seminar was held in conjunction with an ongoing trade and investment mission which will end on August 8.

Melbourne is the first of three Australian cities targeted by the mission, with the others being Adelaide and Perth.

Acknowledging differences between Malaysia and Australia in the negotiations, Rafidah said Malaysia took the view that the talks should be on progressive liberalisation, focusing on things which could be delivered.

However, she said that Australia has an idealistic approach towards the FTA.

The FTA is expected to receive more attention in Adelaide where Rafidah is scheduled to meet Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Mark Vaile.

They are scheduled to chair the 13th Joint Trade Committee Meeting on August 3.

Still, Rafidah said, Malaysia attaches importance to its business links with Australia as could be seen with regular trade and investment missions to Australia, and establishment of the joint trade committee.

She said bilateral trade between Malaysia and Australia grew at an average annual rate of 13.5 percent between 1996 and 2005.

Australia was Malaysia 11th largest trading partner in 2005 with total trade of A$9.7 billion (A$1.00 = RM2.80)

Apart from Australia, Malaysia also has ongoing FTA negotiations with New Zealand and already went through two rounds of negotiations with the United States.

It is also undertaking feasibility studies for FTAs with India and Chile.

Malaysia has already implemented the FTA with Japan on July 13, and an early harvest programme with Pakistan since Jan 1 this year.