February 2006 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

February inter-sessional negotiations and future meetings

We are making steady progress in the negotiations but there was some slippage at the end of last year due to Malaysia’s other negotiating commitments, including the WTO Ministerial meeting and its other FTA negotiations.

Malaysia signed its first bilateral FTA - with Japan - on 13 December 2005 - see the MITI website for details. Malaysia is currently negotiating FTAs bilaterally with India, Pakistan and New Zealand, and with its ASEAN partners with China, Japan, India, Republic of Korea and Australia and New Zealand (see the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA website for an update on the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA negotiations).

Further to the inter-sessional meetings in November on goods and dispute settlement, we have advanced negotiations through inter-sessional meetings on investment which was held on 17 February 2006. The February Investment Working Group meeting provided for an open and frank discussion on key elements of the negotiations. Both sides will undertake further work in preparation for the March negotiating round.

Both sides are committed to completing a comprehensive, high-quality agreement. However, a mid-2006 conclusion to negotiations is now not feasible. Nevertheless, officials are developing a schedule of meetings which should complete negotiations in a reasonable timeframe.

The next full negotiating round will be held in Canberra from 13 March 2006. A further session has tentatively been scheduled for June in Kuala Lumpur, with further meetings to be decided.