Malaysia inks FTA with Australia

If we can exploit properly the potential in services.., this will take our bilateral relations to a new letiel.

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed international trade and industiy minister GREAT START: Local firms set to become major players in Australia’s private healthcare services RUPA DAMODARAN KUALA LUMPUR MALAYSIA inked its bilat-eral free trade pact with Australia yesterday, paving the way for Malaysian companies to become major players in Australia’s private healthcare services.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed described the pact, which comes into effect from Jan 1 next year, as historic.

"Never before have we been able to achieve this kind of success whereby our exporters can enjoy duty free treatment for 100 per cent of the goods as soon as it comes into force," he said at the signing + ceremony here yesterday.

Iron and steel, plastics, textiles, wood and furniture businesses will be the major beneficiaries as they enjoy between five and 10 per cent waive in duties.

Apart from private hospital ser-vices, Malaysian companies can al-so provide traditional and com-plementary medicine services such as Malay massage, homeopa-thy and traditional Chinese medicine.

Under the agreement, Australian exporters will also be able to enjoy significantly reduced tariffs for goods, reaching up to 99 per cent by 2020.

More Australian businesses will be able to participate in the private higher education services as well as telecommunication services with the 100 per cent equity extended under the FTA.

They can also take up to 70 per cent equity stake in insurance and investment banking in Malaysia.

There are currently three Australian branch campuses, including Monash University.

Australia yesterday also threw in a sweetener to the FTA, with its government extending 21 scholarships to Malaysians.

Negotiations, which commenced seven years ago, paused a If we can year later because of ro er the priority given to the Australia-New poteni Zealand-Asean free services.. trade agreement. take our But it was fast tracked when the relat~or prime ministers of new k both countries gave a Datu~ one-year deadline to Must negotiators to wrap up Moha talks this year. intern ado Malaysia has five and inc other bilateral FTAs with Pakistan, Japan, Chile, India and New Zealand.

Australia’s Minister for Trade and Competitiveness Dr Craig Emerson described the agreement as better than the "gold standard" regional FTA (for goods) which it has with Asean and New Zealand (AANZFTA).

"It is comprehensive and truly liberalising and builds on the regional FTA.

This has to be of a platinum standard in terms of trade liberalisation." Under the AANZFTA, Australia has committed to eliminating all tariffs only by 2020.

With the opening of the markets, job opportunities can be inor both countries. creased for both countries.

Trade has been uptrend for both countries, increasing to US$12.4 billion (RM39 billion) last year while trade volume jumped by 28 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Australia is Malaysia’s 12th largest trading partner while Malaysia is Australia’s 10th largest trading partner.

Commenting on the 11 rounds of negotiations, Emerson said the warmth of bilateral relations over the many decades in defence and conflicts enabled both sides to adopt a problem-solving approach during the discussions.

Asked if the talks touched on issues surrounding the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant, Emerson said discussions focused on general efforts to open up markets.

Mustapa remarked that a rebalancing was in order on the investment side as Malaysian investments in Australia totalled US$2.5 billion last year mainly in mining, financial services, construction, insurance and real estate.

This contrasted with Australian investments in Malaysia which totalled US$46 million at the end of last year, covering major areas of equity investment, manufacturing as well as mining and quarrying.

"If we can exploit properly the potential in services, investments as well as economic and technical cooperation, this will take our bilateral relations to a new level." The Malaysia Automotive Institute and AutoCRC of Australia signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday, for collaboration in automotive research and development of new technologies and human capital.

Other areas which both countries agreed to have further cooperation are agriculture, tourism, clean coal technology and e-commerce.

Caption Text:
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed exchanging documents with Australian Trade and Competitiveness Minister Dr Craig Emerson after signing the Malaysia- Australia free trade agreement in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Plc by Abdullah Yusof

Date: Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Resource: The New Straits Times, Page: 6

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