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

The fifth round of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) negotiations was held from 17-20 August in Kuala Lumpur.

This set of meetings marked the first full MAFTA negotiating round since July 2006; negotiations were paused from early-2007 to enable both sides to finalise the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA).

The round was preceded by the annual Malaysia-Australia Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting on 4 August in Melbourne, at which the then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean and his Malaysian counterpart - Minister for International Trade and Industry, Mr Mustapa - agreed that the MAFTA negotiations were an important opportunity to build on the achievements of AANZFTA and called for an expeditious conclusion to the negotiations.

Re-engagement with Malaysia proceeded smoothly. Discussions were constructive and productive across the range of issues.

Malaysia and Australia had preliminary exchanges on their respective interests in ‘AANZFTA-plus’ market access outcomes on tariffs, services, investment and temporary movement of natural persons (MNP).

Both sides also discussed and made progress in clarifying and, in some cases, resolving outstanding issues on draft chapter texts, including in relation to Customs Procedures, Rules of Origin, Investment, Telecommunications, MNP and Mutual Recognition Arrangements. Revised draft texts in these and other areas will form the basis of discussions at the next negotiating round.

Malaysia also engaged on Intellectual Property, Electronic Commerce and Competition Policy. Draft texts and papers on these subjects will be advanced further at the next round.

Malaysia reiterated its interest in economic and technical cooperation and submitted some proposals for Australia’s consideration. Australia registered its interest in having discussions on Government Procurement.

The next negotiating round is scheduled for 7 to 11 December 2009 in Canberra.