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Government Urged To Start FTA Talks With EU
News From : DagangHalal.com (5/7/2010)

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian business community hopes the government can speed up the decision to start free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union (EU), Malaysia-China Business Council Joint Secretary-General Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh said.

He said the business community in Malaysia would welcome any FTA negotiations with the EU as it would send the right signal to the world that the country was open for business.

"Any FTA deal concluded will prove that we are open to trade and investment, and prepared to have some of the best practices adopted," he told reporters after a media luncheon with 17 ambassadors from EU countries here Thursday.

Present was Vincent Piket, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia.

Yeoh said Malaysia had missed the opportunity for an FTA with the United States (US) which could have been concluded.

"Last year, the business community, particularly the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, wanted Malaysia to conclude quickly the Malaysia-US FTA.

"Unfortunately, it was not done and we could not move ahead anymore as the new US administration gives more focus on Trans-Pacific Partnership," he said.

Yeoh said an FTA could also enable Malaysian institutions and organisations to share and adopt some of the best practices in the EU, like sustainable forestry management, urban transportation and environmental management.

"People in Malaysia can learn from the EU experiences as many in the European countries had developed over the last four decades. They have substantial progress in many areas," he added.

Meanwhile, Piket said EU trade officials would visit Malaysia next month to further explore the possibility to start FTA negotiations with Malaysia.

"I expect the exploration will have a positive outcome," he said, adding that the EU had started bilateral negotiations with Singapore and Vietnam.

The EU seeks bilateral negotiations with Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam after failing to forge an FTA with Asean as a whole.

"We are not giving up on Asean. Asean is a priority. So, we are looking at alternative ways of moving forward.

"We propose to a number of Asean countries to first start negotiating bilateral FTAs that later on could be built into a regional framework and put together under the Asean umbrella," Piket said.

He said the EU was keen to move ahead with Malaysia and ready to open FTA negotiations as the country was its second largest trade partner in Asean.

"We are busy exploring and hoping that before too long we can go ahead because it is supporting trade.

"In the current economic climate we cannot sit still, we have to do something for the economy, companies and traders. We feel that constructing a long-term stable trade arrangement between Malaysia and EU will benefit them," he said.

Piket said Malaysia's economy would have an additional boost of eight per cent by 2020 if an FTA with the EU was in place. Malaysia was the Asean member that stood to gain the most, he added.

Meanwhile, the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute and the EU delegation to Malaysia will jointly organise "EU Debate: Asean, The New EU?" here to mark the 53th anniversary of the foundation of the EU and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the EC-Asean Cooperation Agreement on May 18.


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