February 2012 update on the Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement negotiations

The 11th round of Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) negotiations was held on 20 to 21 and 25 to 31 January in Kuala Lumpur.

Overall, good progress was made during this round of negotiations with the gaps between the two countries being narrowed in many areas.  There was a high level of commitment from both sides to address remaining issues and a number of long-standing sticking points were resolved.  However, there remain several key issues on which agreement has not yet been reached, including some market access issues. Australia is seeking commitments that improve on Malaysia’s commitments under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA), for example in relation to automotive, wine, iron and steel tariffs, and in a range of services sectors such as financial services, telecommunications and professional services.

Australia and Malaysia agreed to consult inter-sessionally with further negotiations on Intellectual Property and Legal Issues scheduled for late February in Canberra and negotiations on Rules of Origin scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur from 27 February to 1 March 2012.

Dr Emerson met Malaysia’s Minister for International Trade and Industry, Mr Mustapa, at the 16th Malaysia-Australia Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting in Kuala Lumpur (31 January 2012) to consider progress in negotiations and provide direction to negotiators. The Ministers confirmed their commitment to conclude MAFTA negotiations in March 2012 in accordance with the timeline announced by Prime Ministers Gillard and Najib in March 2011, with a view to signing the Agreement in May 2012.

Ministers agreed during the JTC discussion that the next MAFTA round should take place in Australia, back-to-back with the Melbourne Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations scheduled for 1 to 9 March 2012.