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 Azmin: Govt focusing on RCEP, to explore other FTAs later

01.09.2020 (www.nst.com.my) - KUALA LUMPUR: The government is currently focusing on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations and will later look at other free trade agreements (FTAs), including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the government has been occupied with the RCEP for the last few months, adding that negotiations are at their final stage.

"For RCEP, we are still finalising some of the details, but we are quite optimistic that we should be able to sign the agreement and conclude the negotiations by November this year.

"The next step is to look into other FTAs including the CPTPP. I did mention in Parliament that under the previous administration, in Sept 2018, the government then had decided to ratify the CPTPP without any timeline," he told reporters after giving a special address at the Invest Malaysia 2020 Virtual Series 3 here, today.

Azmin said currently, MITI is engaging with all the stakeholders, because there are some issues that need to be addressed to protect the interests of domestic players and industries before the government decides to ratify this process.

"We decided to continue with the process before the government decided whether to ratify in the very near future, but subject to consultations with the stakeholders.

"We are not having doubts about the CPTPP. FTAs are not new to us, we have signed about 14 FTAs so far, but at the same time, we need to understand and appreciate the need and the challenges faced by local and domestic industries," he added.

Currently, he said, the ministry is engaging with the stakeholders to understand their needs before the government formalises the CPTPP.

"We also have on the table an FTA with Canada, which also held discussions during the Asean meeting. And we are also still engaging with India to welcome India back and join the RCEP," he said.

Earlier in his speech, he said that along with the gradual resumption of economic activities, economic performance in June 2020 has been picking up and the country is on track for a gradual recovery.

Azmin said Malaysia's total trade in June 2020 actually expanded by 2.2 per cent to RM144.78 billion, while exports bounced back with an increase of 8.8 per cent to RM82.82 billion.

"The manufacturing sector recovered with double-digit growth and exports of manufactured goods, which made up 87.5 per cent of total exports, picked up by 13.7 per cent year-on-year to RM72.48 billion.

"Now even more promising are the numbers that we obtained last Friday for July, signalling Malaysia's exports rising for the second straight month," he said.

Moreover, Azmin said, Malaysia recorded an expansion of 3.1 per cent from a year earlier on higher shipments of manufactured goods and agricultural commodities, particularly palm oil.

"All said, our trade surplus widened to a historical high of RM25.15 billion last month, beating the previous record of RM20.9 billion in June," he said.

Meanwhile, in terms of investment, as at June 2020, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) is reviewing a total of 725 projects with a value of RM36.7 billion, and monitoring 141 high-profile leads with potential investments of RM72.6 billion.

MIDA has also facilitated the activities of 86 companies from various countries including China; and closed deals on 32 projects with investments amounting to RM17.5 billion to relocate or redeploy activities to Malaysia. - Bernama


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