All systems go for Msia-Japan FTA by December

Bernama, May 22, 2005

All Systems Go For Msia-Japan FTA By December

By Tengku Noor Shamsiah

KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 (Bernama) — Commercial linkages between Malaysia and Japan are set increase significantly with both countries having achieved a breakthrough in finalising negotiations for a Japan-Malaysia Economic Partnership Agreement (JMEPA).

To be signed as scheduled in December, the JMEPA contains negotiations for the much-awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said Sunday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Japanese economy, trade and industry minister, Shoichi Nakagawa here, she said discussions on the JMEPA which includes the FTA began in December 2003.

It is comprehensive covering all areas, goods, services even agriculture and economic cooperation, she said.

Trade negotiators have been meeting since Tuesday last week in Putrajaya to iron out differences especially in areas such as auto and steel which culminated in today’s successful meeting between the ministers.

Rafidah said during Nakagawa’s one-day visit here, both parties managed to tie-up whatever loose strings (JMEPA) that they had been negotiating.

"We have finalised everything and it will really be an economic framework agreement covering all areas that we both feel we would like to cover,"

Apart from liberalising trade in goods and services, JMEPA also covers agreements on tourism, standardisation of regulations and intellectual property, agriculture and economic cooperation.

Rafidah said: "Everything is done. What we have decided on today will become the basis for an agreement in principle when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi meet in Japan on Wednesday," she said.

Both prime ministers are expected to agree in principle and shake hands on what would be translated into the necessary legal text by the legal people from both sides for signing in December in Malaysia.

Nakagawa said "Malaysia is one of the most important partners for Japan because it is one of the industrialised countries among Asean nations."

Describing the negotiations as very positive, Rafidah said there had been understanding and both sides were very happy with the comprehensive coverage of the economic agreement including the FTA.

When asked to elaborate on the details, she said: "I’m sorry that I will not at this point of time be able to divulge any details because I would like to reserve that proper occasion for our prime ministers in Tokyo (on Wednesday.)

A joint statement would be issued by them, she said.

In terms of modalities and strategy, Rafidah said there would be an early harvest, as well as medium and long term arrangements.

When it is signed in December, it would come into force and then there would be some programmes — the early harvest programme — that would immediately come into operation and then the mechanism for tariff cutting, tariff abolishment in terms of the FTA would start as and when it is scheduled.

Rafidah said that the signing of the agreement would bring the partnership between Malaysia and Japan "to a higher plane and it signals the kind of relations for us in the future, which is the cooperation between both private sectors.

She said the Malaysian private sector now understand they need to collaborate, joint-venture and strive to turn Malaysia into a production hub for Japanese companies, by building up what they already have now.

Rafidah also said the FTA between Malaysia and Japan would eventually dove-tail with the FTA being pursued between Asean and Japan, but its better to do a bilateral FTA first.

Nakagawa said Japan was in talks to sign FTAs particularly with countries in East Asia.

The FTA with Malaysia would reportedly be the fourth for Japan, which already has FTAs with Singapore, Mexico and the Philippines.

source : Bernama

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