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Time for Malaysia-EU free trade agreement, says Anwar

The Edge Malaysia - 18 March 2024

Time for Malaysia-EU free trade agreement, says Anwar

It is about time for Malaysia and the European Union (EU) to rekindle discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA) to further strengthen bilateral relations and regional integration, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

“The time is ripe for us to rekindle discussions on the Malaysia-EU free trade agreement,” he said, adding that with an FTA, Europe will be able to capitalise on Malaysia as a gateway to Asia.

“We will facilitate an FTA,” he said.

Europe can leverage open market policies facilitated by the Asean FTA, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said in his ceremonial address at the 101st Ostasiatisches Liebesmahl at the Hamburg City Hall here.

With over 300 high-ranking guests, the Ostasiatisches Liebesmahl is one of the most important events celebrating the country’s relationship with Asia. Prominent figures from the fields of economics, politics and diplomacy gather at this annual event, which traditionally takes place here.

Earlier in Berlin, Anwar and German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck also discussed the FTA.

Malaysia is currently conducting a scoping exercise with the EU to determine the gap in the positions and stances of both Putrajaya and the bloc for the FTA that was postponed since 2012.

The prime minister said Malaysia is not just open for business, but also ready to cooperate, innovate, and partner in high-quality ventures that align with national goals and global responsibilities.

Anwar, who is also the finance minister, took the opportunity to speak on the Madani Economy framework, which embodies the commitment to propelling Malaysia towards becoming a leading economy in Asia, as well as driving sustainable and inclusive development.

He said the framework envisions a society where prosperity is shared, advocating for greater Asean integration and economic complexity, and establishing Malaysia as a regional powerhouse.

“Underpinning this is the New Industrial Master Plan 2030, which aims to reinvigorate Malaysia’s industrial landscape, focusing on adding value, advanced manufacturing, and high-impact investments.”

The National Energy Transition Roadmap, on the other hand, embodies a forward-looking stance on environmental stewardship, outlining a comprehensive strategy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

On the geopolitical side, he said: “It bears stressing that our principled position of non-alignment stands us in good stead to conduct trade and commerce with the East and the West.”

Besides strong ties with Germany and Europe, Malaysia has also forged ties with China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.

“While detractors have conjured a ghost of past rivalries and are now even raising the spectre of imminent war, I do not subscribe to that line of thought,” said Anwar.

The main imperative for those in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, remains to be development, trade, and growth, he said, adding that Putrajaya’s strategy is being proactive and anticipatory, rather than reactive and unprepared.

“This strengthens our resilience against geopolitical fluctuations, allowing Malaysia to be the sixth largest semiconductor exporter in the world,” Anwar said.

“It also allows Malaysia to export its energy without undue geopolitical concerns.

“Sarawak is an important state. We export energy to the new Indonesian capital Nusantara, as well as through an undersea cable to Singapore, and another undersea cable to the peninsula,” he said.

“Hence, Malaysia is ready to support Germany’s energy transition through natural gas as a transitional fuel. This will balance Germany’s immediate energy security needs with long-term sustainability goals.”

Anwar arrived in Berlin on March 10 for a six-day official visit to the third largest economy in the world.

Germany has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner among European Union member countries since 2000, while Malaysia is the largest trading partner for Germany among Asean member states.

In 2023, Malaysia’s total trade with Germany increased by 5.9% to RM63.45 billion, compared with RM59.87 billion in 2022.

During his stay in Berlin, Anwar held talks with his German counterpart Chancellor Olaf Scholz besides paying a courtesy call on President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He also visited the Siemens Energy plant in Huttenstrabe before engaging more than 35 captains of industry and potential investors from Europe in a business round-table meeting.

 source: The Edge Malaysia