Monday, May 9, 2011

EU-Asean FTA Set For Revival, Says Mustapa

By Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah

SINGAPORE, May 9 (Bernama) -- The European Union-Asean Free Trade Agreement (EU-Asean FTA) is set to be revived following the positive political climate in Myanmar, says International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

The proposal was made at the just-concluded first Asean-EU Business Summit in Jakarta.

Mustapa said seven recommendations were made at the summit, which included among others, for both Asean and EU to speed up the process of bilateral FTA and to work towards the conclusion of a future trade agreement.

"We talked about the possibility of reviving the EU-Asean FTA. We have the European Union talking to Asean, but because of the Myanmar issue, the agreement was put on hold," he told reporters after the Europe Day celebration luncheon here Monday.

Earlier, Mustapa shared his views and insights with members of the European Chamber of Commerce Singapore (EuroCham) on the ongoing economic transformation and investment opportunities available for European companies in Malaysia.

Economic relations between the European Union (EU), Singapore and Malaysia is poised to strengthen further following the ongoing EU FTA negotiations.

On Myanmar, Mustapa said many changes were taking place within the country and this augured well for reviving FTA negotiations between Asean and EU.

In April 2007, the European Commission (EC) was given the mandate by European member states to negotiate an FTA with Asean as part of the commission's Global Europe strategy.

Independent research commissioned by the EC suggested that the likely economic benefits for both Asean and the EU were considerable.

Touching on Malaysia-EU free trade agreement, Mustapa said he was confident the agreement would be signed by the third quarter of next year.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has indicated that the agreement should be concluded within 18 months.

"The European Union is a very important trading partner and you know very well that it is the number one investor in Asean.

"Although, EU is a vast market, European companies are still keen to invest in Asean," he said.

For Malaysia, he said EU was a major trading partner and investor.

Total trade between the two countries amounted to US$38 billion last year.