KUALA LUMPUR: The government has proposed to continue with the Malaysia-European Union Free Trade Agreement (MEUFTA) negotiation that has been delayed since 2012, said Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Senator Datuk Lim Ban Hong (pix).

He said the negotiation was delayed due to the failure of both parties to come to an agreement on sensitive issues such as government procurement, Bumiputera policy, intellectual property rights, geographical indicators, and halal issues.

However, the proposal to proceed with the negotiation will need the approval of the Cabinet.

“The decision to proceed must be done with care after considering the interests of all parties because the EU has made high demands in certain issues.

“All free trade agreements (FTA) signed by Malaysia need to be clearly beneficial and the government will not compromise on issues that will give a negative impact on the people and country,” he told Parliament today in response to questions from Ong Kian Ming (PH-Bangi) who asked for an update on MEUFTA.

Lim said the government realises that the EU is an important trade partner and a major source of investment for Malaysia.

Hence, since last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) had organised several sessions with industry leaders and stakeholders to get their feedback on the issue, with the majority of respondents of the view that the negotiations should continue.

“Furthermore, MITI recently held discussions with the ambassador and chief of the EU delegation to Malaysia, apart from sending letters to the EU on Malaysia’s intention to analyse and discuss again the direction of MEUFTA,” he revealed.

In 2017, Malaysia and the EU held several meetings to gauge the readiness of both parties to continue with the negotiations.

As there were no positive developments regarding the issue, the Cabinet on Sept 18, 2019 decided to delay FTA talks with the EU.

Meanwhile, on the FTA discussion between Malaysia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Lim said the 12th round will begin in January 2022.

Consultations with stakeholders are actively ongoing to ensure that the Malaysia-EFTA Economic Partnership Agreement (MEEPA) will benefit the country.

Up to September 2017, eight rounds of negotiations have been held with EFTA, which comprises Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

The negotiations had been delayed until it was resumed in 2019 with the latest round held from Aug 20 to Sept 3, 2021.

Talks on technical obstacles to free trade were finalised in the 10th round which was held from May 25-28, 2021.

“Negotiations on customs procedures and trade facilitation, rules of origin, and investment have been satisfactory.

“However, negotiations on market access, intellectual property, trade, sustainability, and government procurement have not shown any significant development as Malaysia and EFTA have different views on these issues,” Lim said. — Bernama

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