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Malaysia needs more free trade agreements in Asean region to boost domestic economy, says Tengku Zafrul

Malay Mail | 6 March 2024

Malaysia needs more free trade agreements in Asean region to boost domestic economy, says Tengku Zafrul

By Julia Chan

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — Malaysia is looking to increase the number of free trade agreements (FTA) that it has as they play a significant role in Malaysia’s economy, said Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

The minister, who part of an official delegation to Australia for a special summit with Asean countries, told business news channel CNBC that FTAs were important for countries like Malaysia which did not have a very open economy.

“We have seen how it has contributed positively to the increase in trade. So it is important but what’s also important from what we have seen today, is we need to increase the number especially within Asean itself,” he said during the exclusive interview.

He said the meeting in Melbourne was critical when it comes to trade and investment for the country to build on its network.

“With Australia, for example, we have four FTAs, you know, we have the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and then Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We have the US-Malaysian-Australia FTA. We also have the Australian-New Zealand-Asean FTA and one from the two major multilateral agreement that we’ve signed with the CPTPP,” he said.

Zafrul said that on the CPTPP, they had agreed during their last meeting in New Zealand to look at new entrants based on the Auckland principles to maintain the gold standard of CPTPP.

“I believe there’s around six countries today that have applied to be members and they must meet the Auckland principle, which, by the way, means that they have to be meeting the standards that have been stated in the CPTPP. And the newest member is of course UK.

“So Malaysia has no issue with any of the countries that have applied to enter to join CPTPP. But of course, as you know, it’s based on consensus, so all members have to agree,” he said.

In the interview, Zafrul also touched on Malaysia’s relationship with China and the US, saying that the government has consistently stated it would remain neutral as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“I think Malaysia has always reiterated our position as a neutral country where we are friendly to both America as well as China. As you know, both countries are important when it comes to trade and investment.

“China, as well as the US, are the top two trade and investment investors for Malaysia. So I think that will continue to be the case. And we have seen recently, more investments coming in from both China and US into Malaysia,” he said.

 source: Malay Mail