Business Times | Monday, October 05, 2009
Malaysia plans to start FTA talks with GCC countries
MALAYSIA is hopeful of starting negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries this week.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said so far Malaysia has engaged discussions with the Saudi Arabian officials but no decisions have been made to date.
Mustapa, who has left for a trade and investment mission to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt during the weekend, said he will be talking to his counterparts in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and bring up the FTA issue.
"The Middle East is one of our main focus areas, with most investments from there focused on property, banking and services and not so much on manufacturing sector activities. We have not tapped their potential," he said.
The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. Mustapa’s visit will also include Qatar and Egypt.
Malaysia has proposed negotiations with the GCC which will offer vast investment opportunities for both Malaysia and GCC countries, especially in the areas of services such as construction, tourism, banking and finance, medical, ICT and education.
Since the Asean Free Trade Area in 1992, Malaysia has concluded bilateral FTAs with Japan, Pakistan and New Zealand.
It has also established together with Asean partners, FTAs with China, Korea, Japan, Australia/New Zealand as well as with India and the agreements are at various stages of implementation.
Malaysia is also currently involved in bilateral negotiations with Australia, Chile, India and the US. "We are also undertaking studies to identify potential FTAs among our trading partners that offer opportunities for trade and investment," Mustapa said.