Monday January 31, 2011
Malaysia and Gulf nations boost ties towards FTA
FROM ABU DHABI - MARTIN CARVALHO
MALAYSIA and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signed a landmark framework agreement to boost economic, commercial, investment and technical cooperation between them.
It will now set the pace for both sides to negotiate for a Free Trade Agreement next month.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, the United Arab Emirates’ Economy Minister Sultan Saeed Al-Mansoori and GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Hamad Al-Attiyah signed the agreement in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority chairman Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak witnessed it.
Najib welcomed the agreement as an important step towards strengthening the friendly economic and political ties between Malaysia and the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman.
He said the framework agreement represented continuity in relations between Malaysia and the oil-rich Gulf nations, which share historical and cultural ties dating back to the Kedah kingdom and Malacca’s 15th-century Malay Sultanate.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Najib.
“This relationship with the GCC has evolved over the years to allow both parties to explore and leverage on trade and investment,” he said in a keynote address to more than 500 businessmen and captains of industries at the Invest Malaysia 2011 Forum.
“Although this is just a framework agreement, both Malaysia and the GCC are committed towards commencing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement by March,” he added.
Najib said positive economic indicators, adequate manpower and resources, coupled with initiatives such as the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme, had made Malaysia a favoured investment destination.
“We have identified 131 Entry Point Projects worth US$44bil (RM134bil) to be implemented over the next decade, of which some 92% will come from the private sector,” he said.
Najib, who is Finance Minister, added that Malaysia was also poised to become one of the world’s largest Islamic financial hub.
It currently ranks top in sukuk or Islamic bonds, ahead of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Indo-nesia and Bahrain.
“Malaysia now accounts for more than 50% of the US$144bil (RM440bil) in Islamic bonds outstanding worldwide,” he said.
Between January and November last year, total trade between Malaysia and the GCC grew by 25.6%.
In the corresponding period in 2009, exports were RM15.4bil and imports RM14.8bil.
Trade is expected to increase five-fold in the coming years.
As of December last year, Malaysian construction companies were involved in projects amounting to RM34.1bil in the GCC.