No plans to ratify any more FTAs, Parliament told – The Star Online

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KUALA LUMPUR: There are no plans by Malaysia to ratify any more free trade agreements (FTA) for the time being, says Liew Chin Tong.

“There are no decisions to continue with negotiations for any new FTAs although several countries have shown interest to sign agreements with Malaysia,” the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister said when replying to a supplementary question by Jimmy Puah Wee Tse (PH-Tebrau) in Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday (March 1).

Puah wanted to know if Malaysia was considering entering into other FTAs apart from the Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which were ratified last year.

Liew said that the current government would go ahead with the CPTPP and RCEP which was ratified by the previous administration.

“The global trade system has changed.

“Previously, the system was managed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) before the trade war between China and the United States (US) and other recent global developments.

“But now we have various blocs and Malaysia as a trading nation needs to be part of such FTAs so that we are not excluded from such groupings,” he added.

He informed the House that the previous Cabinet had unanimously agreed on Sept 21 last year to be part of the CPTPP and ratified it on Sept 30.

The CPTPP, which was originally called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, is a trade pact between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The 11 countries signed the deal in March 2018, and Malaysia is the ninth country to have ratified the CPTPP in 2022.

The agreement removes 95% of tariffs between its 11 members.

Brunei and Chile have yet to do so.

The RECP is an FTA between the 10 Asean countries and its five FTA partners, namely Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Earlier, to a question by Che Alias Hamid (PN-Kemaman), Liew said that the CPTPP will not prohibit the government from providing subsidies to farmers and fishermen involved with exports.

He said the current subsidies were not for export purposes but for fuel, fertiliser and repair and upgrading of fishing vessels.

Liew also said that the CPTPP would not completely abolish import duties for agricultural goods in a drastic manner.

He said Malaysia would be given 16 years to reduce and abolish import duties including for agriculture.

However, he assured the House that Malaysia need not abolish import duties for chicken and chicken eggs completely but allow them to be maintained under tariff-rate quotas.

Liew noted that some 50% of local demand for beef and mutton was currently imported.

He added that the average import for agricultural products was 13.8% in 2020 but was reduced to an average of 7.9% in 2021.