Malaysia sees value in FTAs with Latin America

By DASHVEENJIT KAUR

Malaysia is ready to establish free trade agreements (FTAs) with Latin American countries such as Mexico and Peru, following positive export growth to both nations.

Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the country is open to having bilateral pacts with Latin American countries that Malaysia has no FTAs with yet.

“That is certainly an option that we are looking at, as we are pro-FTAs and we have one with Chile which is doing well,” he told reporters after officiating the Latin American Business Day 2017 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The event was organised in collaboration with all the 10 Latin American and Caribbean embassies in Malaysia — comprising Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Currently, Mexico is Malaysia’s largest export partner in Latin America. Malaysia’s export to Mexico amounted to RM7.85 billion in 2016 and RM4.16 billion for the January to May 2017 period.

“Malaysia has recorded positive export growth with Mexico and Peru, though it has a long way to go to enjoy the benefits of real opportunities both countries have to offer,” Mustapa said.

Among the other Latin American countries, export to Chile amounted to RM680 million in 2016 and RM260 million for the period of January to May 2017, he said.

“In addition to trade, major Latin American companies have established their global presence in Malaysia, leveraging on the country’s comprehensive indus- trial ecosystem,” he added.

Mustapa said there is a lot of potential for more investments in Malaysia — particularly in food processing, oil and gas, as well as regional establishments such as principal hubs.

Latin American companies should leverage on their strengths and advantages, and explore investment opportunities in Malaysia to gain access to Asean, he said.

Malaysian products that are in demand in Latin America include electric and electronic (E&E) products, rubber products, machinery, equipment and parts, chemical products and processed food.

Latin American products in demand in Malaysia are processed food, metalliferous ores and metal scrap, E&E products, crude petroleum, and agriculture products such as corn and soybean.

Mustapa cited major Latin American companies based in Malaysia like mining company Vale SA, Mission Foods (a subsidiary of Gruma Corp), coffee manufacturer Dan Kaffe, indoor play city KidZania and more recently, food company BRF SA.

“There is room for improvement and we need to unearth the untapped opportunities between our countries, he said.

Latin American businesses are keen to make Malaysia a regional hub for marketing and distributing their products, he added.

“My hope is that more businesses from Latin America will set up operations with the market access that Malaysia provides.”