Malaysia to resume trade talks after CPTPP is finalised

According to a minister, 2018 will be a busy year for the country

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Malaysia is expected to resume and conclude other trade talks after the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is finalised.

Second International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said next year will be a busy year for the country, as several agreements are expected to be concluded including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU).

“Just like any other stalled agreements that we have, it is difficult to give thema timeline. But, 2018 will be a busy year for Malaysia,” Ong said.

The EU-Malaysia free trade negotiation began in 2010 and was put on hold in 2012 due to “various unavoidable factors”.

Ong said the FTA with the EU has a better chance to be realised than other stalled trade talks, due to the “unison nature” of the agreement.

“We expect to resume the talk with the EU next year and conclude it as soon as possible. With the EU, we are dealing with 28 countries in unison and that would expedite the negotiating process.

“Other talks such as the RCEP are harder to conclude due to back and forth separate discussion with the member states,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the EU is Malaysia’s second-largest export market for palm oil — accounting for 2.06 million tonnes of products in 2016.

There were concerns on Malaysia’s ties with the region, following the EU’s plan to curb the importation of palm oil to the country members.

In April, a resolution by the European Parliament was called for the EU to cease the use of vegetable oils in biodiesel that are produced in an unsustainable way by 2020.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong (picture) said in a statement yesterday that the government resolved to establish a Special Oil Palm Economic and Technical Committee between Malaysia and the EU.

This committee will act to establish a clearer understanding on issues surrounding palm oil, and would be joined by special representatives of the EU ambassadors in Malaysia.

He said the establishment of this special committee would be important in strengthening the role of the ambassadors in ensuring accurate and unbiased information to the EU countries.