EU-Malaysia trade to match pre-pandemic levels by year-end, says ambassador

THE European Union (EU) is expecting trade with Malaysia to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.

EU ambassador to Malaysia, Michalis Rokas (picture) said the political union involving 27 European countries pledges to continue to make Malaysia its strategic partner given its significant gateway to the ASEAN market.

“ASEAN countries in general are a great destination. It is strategically important for us and 45 per cent of our trade (to ASEAN) goes through Malaysia’s shores. So it is significant,” he told Bernama after appearing as a guest on Bernama TV’s “The Nation” programme, titled “Malaysia-EU Relations” today.

Rokas said the EU and Malaysia have formed a strong bilateral relationship and investment commitment for decades even before the introduction of any treaty tools or trade instrument.

“This means Malaysia is already a trusted partner for the EU, because of its democracy, rule of law, native English speakers, ease of doing business and skilled workforce, among others,” he said.

 The ambassador said the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was signed in Brussels in December last year, would provide a major springboard that would boost EU-Malaysia trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).

Pre-pandemic, the two-way EU-Malaysia trade amounted to over 300 billion euros but it dropped to a mere 50 billion euros after the pandemic hit amid supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, and closure of factories, to name a few, he said.

Expressing his interest to be working closely with the new government under the administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on various reforms, Rokas said there are close to 1,500 European companies operating in Malaysia at present.

For future potential collaboration, he said among key areas would be in green technologies, digitalisation and cybersecurity, alongside human development, education as well as logistics and commodity manufacturing.

On concerns over the EU legislative proposal on the export of certain commodities, including palm oil, and products associated with deforestation and forest degradation, he assured that there is no ban action taken by the trading bloc and import of palm oil from Malaysia will continue.

 “There is nothing for Malaysia to fear because the country has strongly pledged not to deforest any longer.

“On the other hand, 97 per cent of Malaysia’s palm oil production is covered by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) where both are certifications to stem deforestation,” he said.

He noted that engagements with the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Minister of Plantation and Commodities, Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, together with industry stakeholders would be held in the near term to discuss further issues pertaining to the industry, including the EU legislation, to the mass market.

Rokas expects the legislation to come into force in the first quarter of 2024 when operators and traders would then have 18 months to implement the new rules. — BERNAMA