April 2010 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

The 7th round of Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) negotiations was held in Kuala Lumpur from 19 to 23 April 2010. Good progress was made across the negotiations to further narrow areas of difference. The round sharpened the understanding on both sides of what would constitute 'AANZFTA-plus' outcomes, and a process for exchanging market access offers ahead of the next round was discussed.

On goods, discussions were held on draft chapter text in the areas of goods, rules of origin (ROO), customs procedures, safeguards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures. ROO product specific rules and operational certification procedures were explored. Australia and Malaysia exchanged information on their market access interests, with Australia detailing its views on what an 'AANZFTA-plus' outcome would look like.

In services, further information was exchanged on the initial indicative requests exchanged in December 2009. Australia and Malaysia exchanged views about approaches to scheduling services commitments. Steady progress was made in narrowing differences on the draft services-related chapter texts, including texts on telecommunications, financial services and mutual recognition arrangements.

On investment, Malaysia and Australia discussed technical aspects of scheduling and principles and expectations for quality investment schedules. Discussion on the draft investment chapter was productive, and only a small number of issues remain unresolved.

On competition policy, Malaysia provided an overview of its Competition Bills, which were progressing through Malaysia's Parliament. Malaysia also provided an update on its intellectual property review.

Malaysia provided further information on its proposed economic and technical cooperation proposals, and the criteria by which projects would be assessed were refined.

Progress was also made on the draft e-commerce text, and institutional framework provisions for the FTA.

Malaysia also provided information on the reform agenda outlined in its recently released New Economic Model (Part 1).

In the margins of the negotiating round, Australia took the opportunity to emphasise the value it placed on having commitments on government procurement. There were also subject-specific consultations undertaken on wine and automotives, and Australia put forward its views on the need for 'AANZFTA-plus' outcomes in these areas.

The 8th round of MAFTA negotiations is scheduled to be held in Canberra from 18-22 October 2010.