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Malaysia, Pakistan plan free trade talks

Agence France Presse | 26 October 2004

Malaysia, Pakistan plan free trade talks

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia and Pakistan have agreed to start negotiations that could lead to a free trade agreement, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said.

"We have agreed to invite a (Malaysian) delegation to Pakistan to come and look at a preferential trade arrangement leading to Free Trade Area (FTA) framework," Kasuri told a news conference at the end of a two-day Malaysia-Pakistan joint commission meeting on Tuesday.

Kasuri noted that trade between the two countries was heavily tilted in Malaysia’s favour and said a preferential trade arrangement (PTA) could address the imbalance.

Total bilateral trade in 2003 was 713 million dollars, with 623 million dollars going to Malaysia.

Major trade items are palmoil — which accounts for some 500 million dollars — and electronic products from Malaysia, and rice and textiles from Pakistan.

Malaysia is also actively involved in oil and gas projects, construction and communications in Pakistan.

Abid Javed Akbar, vice-chairman of Pakistan’s Export Promotion Bureau, said he hoped the PTA could be signed by October 2005.

"We want to start talks on the PTA in the next three months with Malaysian trade officials. We would love to sign the PTA at the next joint commission meeting," he told AFP.

Akbar said Malaysia could enjoy lower duties on palmoil if it signed the PTA, adding that Pakistan hoped to export more rice and textiles to Malaysia.

The PTA would allow both countries to identify a list of goods that would be given market access with lower duties, he said. "We will then work towards the FTA."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad should forge a closer partnership to advance their economic interests.

He urged Pakistanis to invest in Malaysia’s manufacturing industry, in particular the dairy and textile sectors.

Syed Hamid said he hoped Pakistan’s national airline would fly into Kuala Lumpur and boost tourism to Malaysia, noting that last year only 9,984 Pakistanis visited the popular Southeast Asian nation.

Kasuri said the joint commission, which aims to boost bilateral relations, would meet again in Islamabad next year.

 source: AFP