December 2009 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

The sixth round of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) negotiations was held in Canberra from 7–11 December. Negotiations made steady progress across most subject areas.

In the area of goods, Malaysia and Australia undertook a stocktake of outstanding issues and next steps to prepare for substantive discussions at the next round. Both sides exchanged information on each other's interests in "AANZFTA-plus" tariff outcomes and Australia sought more information on a range of non-tariff measures in Malaysia. Malaysia responded to questions on the outcomes of its recent National Automotive Policy review.

On services, Malaysia and Australia exchanged initial indicative market access interests. These will be subject to more substantive discussion at the next round, following domestic consultations. Approaches to scheduling market access commitments were revisited, and further discussion will be required to reach agreement in this area. Good progress was made in narrowing differences in draft services-related texts, including on telecommunications, financial services, the movement of natural persons (covering the temporary entry of business persons into Australia and Malaysia for business purposes), and mutual recognition arrangements.

On investment, Australia submitted its initial indicative interests. There will be further discussion of these interests, and technical scheduling issues, at the next round. Discussions on the draft investment chapter text were productive, and reduced the number of outstanding issues.

Discussions on text were advanced in the areas of intellectual property and electronic commerce, and Malaysia provided an update on its current review of intellectual property laws. Both sides also discussed the inclusion of a chapter on competition policy and a draft text will be considered at the next round.

We underscored Australia's interest in the coverage of government procurement in MAFTA and in engaging in more detailed discussions in this area.

Malaysia and Australia also discussed possible economic and technical cooperation proposals that could assist in the implementation of MAFTA commitments.

The seventh round of negotiations has been scheduled for 19–23 April in Kuala Lumpur.