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Malaysia, European body to begin FTA talks

Bernama | 2012/11/05

Malaysia, European body to begin FTA talks

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) today agreed to begin negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said today.

Speaking to reporters, Mustapa said the negotiations are expected to begin in the next four to five months and to be concluded within two years.

"We will make sure there will be good progress in these negotiations," Mustapa told reporters after the signing of a "scoping paper" between MITI and the Swiss government.

He added that the proposed Malaysia-EFTA free trade agreement is a strategic initiative to improve Malaysia’s trade competitiveness in the Europe.

Mustapa said EFTA’s expertise and leadership in sectors including high technology, medical devices, finance and banking as well insurance are recognised by Malaysia.

"We therefore view the proposed Malaysia-EFTA free trade agreement as a partnership framework for Malaysia to build an enduring and collaborative economic relationship with EFTA countries," he said.

Malaysia was represented by International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria and Switzerland by Didier Chambovey, the Ambassador and Delegate of the Switzerland Government for Trade Agreement.

The announcement of the proposed FTA negotiations was jointly made by Mustapa and Johann N. Scheider-Amman, Switzerland’s Minister for Economic Affairs representing EFTA, here today.

EFTA, made up of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is a European trade bloc established in May 1960 as an alternative to the European Economic Community, and has a sizeable market with a combined gross domestic product of RM2.87 trillion in 2010.

Mustapa said the negotiations will range into subjects that include tarrifs and capacity building.

Mustapa and Scheider-Amman also witnessed the signing of a "scoping paper" that establishes the subjects to be covered by the proposed FTA.

"We have been talking about economic collaborations about a few years now. Firstly on the general collaboration, then we did a scoping study and that is done. We are now in the next phase, which is the FTA," said Mustapa.

Meanwhile, Scheiner-Amman said that Switzerland will be focusing on services intellectual property protection in the negotiations.

"It is a broad-based negotiation which we are going to face," he said.

Malaysia is also in negotiations with the European Union to conclude an FTA. A similar agreement with EFTA countries will extend Malaysia’s preferential trading arrangements to all of Europe.

Malaysia’s trade volume with the EFTA states totalled RM4.8 billion, of which 81 per cent was with Switzerland. — BERNAMA

 source: Bernama