December 2011 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

Good progress was made during the 10th round of Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) negotiations, held from 25 to 27 October and from 21 to 24 November in Canberra. The round was held against the background of the agreement reached between Prime Minister Gillard and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib to conclude the MAFTA negotiations by March 2012.

The sessions on 25 to 27 October covered investment, intellectual property, economic and technical cooperation, and legal and institutional provisions.  The main focus of the sessions held from 21 to 24 November was on securing commercially meaningful market access outcomes on goods and services.

Advances were made in resolving outstanding issues in the legal text, rules of origin, e-commerce and competition policy.  In market access discussions on goods and services, we pushed for an ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) plus outcome from Malaysia. While gaps remain on market access, including in respect of a number of Australia's key interests (for example, automotives, steel, wine, telecoms and financial services) both sides agreed to work inter-sessionally to further reduce the number of outstanding issues.

Following thorough exchanges on options for operationalising specific economic and technical cooperation activities as part of the MAFTA package, both countries settled on the use of a Memorandum of Understanding to record specific cooperation activities. Australia agreed to draft the text of an Implementing Arrangement on Economic and Technical Cooperation which would set out the cooperation to be undertaken in the automotive, agriculture and tourism sectors, as well as the areas of e-commerce and carbon capture and storage.

The 11th round of negotiations was scheduled to be held in Malaysia in January 2012.