From Leslean Arshad
MILAN (Italy), Oct 18 (Bernama) — The Cabinet will discuss a suitable approach to enable the country’s negotiator to continue with the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Malaysia and the European Union (EU), said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said before the Malaysia-EU FTA entered the next round of negotiations, after completing eight rounds of negotiations, the country’s negotiator needed to get a new mandate from the government.
“We can only discuss this matter after getting the new mandate,” he told Malaysian reporters Friday, his last day here to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit.
During his speech at the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) in conjunction with ASEM on Thursday, Najib gave a signal that the Malaysia-EU FTA should be continued, besides stressing that Malaysia is a strong proponent of the free trade policy.
Najib who is also Finance Minister said there was a delay in the Malaysia-EU FTA negotiations due to several issues that had cropped up beyond trade and investment.
It involved among others government procurement, intellectual property rights, environment and labour, he said.
On government procurement, he said, it might possibly touch on the priority given to Bumiputera companies, while on environment, the EU requested Malaysia to take action for sustainable development.
He said these issues required flexibility between the two parties to achieve the FTA negotiation aspirations.
Following these issues, he said it would be difficult to state when the Malaysia-EU FTA negotiations would be concluded.
“We expect the process to take a bit of time. Nevertheless, it is one prospect that we are championing on as it would lead towards a stronger integration between two regions, namely, Asean and EU,” he said.
The Malaysia-EU FTA negotiations began in October 2010, and was reported to have been concluded by end-2012.
Najib said trade between the EU and Malaysia for the January-July 2014 period was about RM81.59 billion, an increase of 7.2 per cent compared with the same period in 2013.