October 2007 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

Leads and co-chairs of the various working groups met on 1 October 2007 in KualaLumpur to map a way forward for the negotiations. This followed a meeting between Australia’s lead negotiator and Malaysia’s new lead negotiator on 4 June 2007: a number of Malaysia’s key negotiators had changed since the last full negotiating session. Both sides noted the considerable work undertaken in the negotiations with the development of draft chapter text and exchange of initial tariff offers. It was acknowledged there had been slippage in the negotiations due in part to changes in Malaysia’s personnel and a heavy trade agenda.

Australia and Malaysia are also engaged in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) negotiations. Both sides agreed it was important to ensure consistency and coherence between the regional (AANZFTA) and the bilateral (MAFTA) FTAs as a number of issues crossed both negotiations: e.g. rules of origin and customs procedures. It was accepted that MAFTA would need to add value to the regional FTA.

Inter-sessional meetings will be held as required and we will hold a further preparatory meeting in early 2008, leading to a full round by mid-2008.