By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
THE Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is expected to set up a meeting with Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to discuss the possibility of reviving the free trade agreement (FTA) between Malaysia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
MITI Minister Darell Leiking (picture) said the discussion would include the next course of action for the agreement, which was put on hold by the previous administration, to move forward. “I will talk with the PM and see whether or not the revival of this proposal could be done.
“The PM always says we are open to any FTA, but it must be a fair trade as well,” he told reporters at the business symposium by Arab Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (AMCC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Darrell said the government would also need time to look into the matter and study the terms for the pact, which were outlined by the previous administration.
The GCC countries comprise Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Last March, former Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed put on hold the trade deal between Malaysia and the GCC states as there were challenges to revive the framework agreement.
The agreement, which was signed six years ago, is aimed at enhancing economic, commercial, investment and technical cooperation, as well as to initiate the FTA negotiations.
The FTA was placed on hold since the region was impacted by various unfortunate circumstances such as the Arab Spring, followed by the global financial crisis, as well as the plunge in crude oil prices.
Darrell added that the Arab partners could take full advantage of Malaysia’s trade access within the Asean region, which stands at the gateway to a 600 million population that is powered by a combined gross domestic product of over US$2.5 trillion (RM10.26 trillion).
“One prime example of an industry that takes full advantage of these links is the halal industry with over RM45 billion of exports recorded last year.
“Globally, this multi-trillion industry expands at almost 20% a year and collectively, Malaysia and the Arab states make up the bulk of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, AMCC president Mohamed Fauzy Abdul Hamid said the Arab states have also committed to investing and growing other forms of national resources, especially in human capital development due to the fluctuating market of natural resources business, especially the oil and gas.
“The reliance on oil, a large number of foreign workers and expertise, as well as the rise of regional tensions have created a natural and necessary path towards restructuring their economic identity.
“Similarly, key GCC states have started building their trade capabilities. As epicentres for the movement of finance, expertise goods, resources and technology, these states are ideal partners for Malaysia to tap into Arab markets, as well as providing the Arabs hassle-free business to Asean,” he said.
To date, AMCC has grown up to 200 people compared to only 70 members when it was launched in 2011.
It is now connected to over 50 chambers of commerce, commercial associations and investment agencies across the Arab speaking countries and Malaysia.