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[Malaysia] Govt still open to FTA with EU: Miti

The Sun Daily | 17 April 2015

Govt still open to FTA with EU: Miti

Ee Ann Nee

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is still open to having the Malaysia-EU (European Union) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) despite it being stalled currently.

International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria said nothing is happening at the moment on the Malaysia-EU FTA and that both Malaysia and the EU are still looking at the parametres to see if both sides are ready to move on.

"I’m leaving it open because the other part of the EU-Malaysia relation, which is the Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) that Wisma Putra (government) is negotiating is integral. You can’t have the EU FTA without the PCA. That (PCA) is progressing and we’re happy with that," she told reporters at the EU-Malaysia Trade and Investment Forum 2015 here yesterday.

"For the FTA, we’ll see how it goes. Let the ministers have the discussion . After the bilateral (talks), we’ll see how to move forward," said Rebecca.

Malaysia and EU first entered into discussions on an FTA in 2010.

When asked on the issues surrounding the Malaysia-EU FTA , she said they were similar to the issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.

The TPPA is an FTA initiative involving 12 countries and has gone through a five-year negotiating process. 10 of the TPPA’s 29 chapters have been finalised while another 10 chapters are substantially finalised. Malaysia has made its position clear on contentious issues in the TPPA such as on government procurement, investment, labour, environment and international property rights.

Rebecca also said the Asean-EU FTA is still a work-in-progress.

This comes as Malaysia is taking the chairmanship of Asean this year and the Prime Minister had said that Malaysia would give strong emphasis on Asean-EU relations because of the huge potential for trade and investments between the two regions.

EU delegation to Malaysia Minister Counsellor and section head of trade and economic relations Sandra Callagan said it was the Malaysian government that requested for a "break" for the Malaysia-EU FTA to pave way for both countries to rethink what is wanted out of the agreement.

"The engagement of Malaysia in TPP negotiations has, perhaps, a chance to influence the views of the Malaysian government on trade agreements and we’d be able to now go back with a renewed impetus. In the future, I think that (FTA) is certainly the intention of both sides," said Callagan.

She said the EU has negotiated FTA with Singapore and is currently negotiating with Vietnam.

"We’ve a strong commitment to to the region and we’re interested because Malaysia is our second largest partner in Asean. I’m confident that it will take place and it will probably be fairly soon," said Callagan.

The EU continues to be the leading investor in Asean and is the second largest investor in the manufacturing sector in Malaysia as well as its third largest trading partner.

Meanwhile, Rebecca said the strong trade and investment activities are expected to continue this year.

"I’m hoping the momentum will continue. We’ve some projects in the pipeline so we’re working to ensure the projects take place. What I gather is they (business communities) are still optimistic about the business environment in Malaysia. We’ll continue to facilitate that. Those who are here are looking to expand and none are downsizing," said Rebecca.

Last year, Malaysia’s trade with EU grew 6.2% to RM143.98 billion from RM135.79 billion in 2013.

 source: The Sun Daily