Scoping studies to pave way for Free Trade Agreement
By PAUL GABRIEL
22 January 2006
MALAYSIA and Chile are moving towards an eventual Free Trade Agreement (FTA), with both sides to undertake scoping studies. A Joint Study Group has been formed to complete the task and submit recommendations to both governments by the end of the year.
The first round of talks will be held in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 28. The group would also review the existing institutional framework and mechanism in bilateral trade and economic relations to facilitate and optimise such co-operation.
This was decided during a meeting between International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and Chilean Foreign and Trade Minister Ignacio Walker in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
Under the Terms of Reference, the study group would identify the strategic and economic benefits and policy framework to enhance trade in goods, services and investment.
Malaysia’s main exports to Chile are electrical and electronic products, rubber and wood products, machinery, appliances and parts, chemicals and chemical products, while the bulk of imports are metals, paper and pulp products, and fresh and frozen seafood.
“We want to increase our trade and investment links with Malaysia. With Chile’s political and economic stability, our country can serve as a springboard for Malaysia into Latin America,” Walker said in an interview.
Elaborating on Chile’s economic situation, he said the economy has been growing by 6% annually, with unemployment kept at 7.5%.
“Last year, we created 100,000 new jobs. The continuing democratisation process in Chile and the removal of constitutional obstacles have contributed to Chile’s viable economic status,” he added.
The academic-turned politician was also here to brief the Malaysian Government on the implications of Chile’s run-off presidential election last Sunday, which was won by governing coalition candidate Michelle Bachelet.
“The new Government will be one of change with continuity. Ms Bachelet has served as Defence and also Health Minister and is a very able and skilful person.
“We have managed to reduce poverty, and are continuing to address social inequalities and problems related to income distribution,” he said. Bachelet and her new Cabinet will be sworn in on March 11 for a four-year term.
Walker, who assumed his post over a year ago, will be stepping down.
However, he pledged Chile’s commitment to work with Malaysia bilaterally, and on the international stage.
“We have complementing economies and our trade is growing. Within Asia, Malaysia is very important to Chile,” he added.