Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson leaves today for Malaysia to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), sealing a deal that will further integrate the Australian economy with the fast-growing Asian region.
Malaysia is the first stop on a two-week visit by Dr Emerson to seven countries: Malaysia, France, the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, Germany and Russia.
The FTA, to be signed in Kuala Lumpur on 22 May by Dr Emerson and his Malaysian counterpart Mustapa Mohamed, will guarantee tariff-free entry for 97.6 per cent of recent goods imports by Malaysia from Australia once it enters into force. This will rise to 99 per cent by 2017.
Malaysia is Australia's 10th largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth $16 billion in 2011.
"The signing of this FTA will open a new chapter in Australia's relationship with Malaysia," Dr Emerson said.
"Australian exporters of automotive parts and a wide range of other manufactured products, as well as exporters of iron, steel and milk, will benefit from improved market access under the agreement," he said.
"The FTA builds on an already-solid commercial partnership by embracing services and investment, where Australian companies will increasingly engage with Asia in this, the Asian Century."
Malaysia has committed to allowing Australian service providers majority ownership in a range of service industries, including telecommunications, insurance, education, tourism, accountancy and mining-related services.
Australia companies will also be allowed majority ownership of research and development projects.
Dr Emerson said the FTA was a high-quality agreement that would build on the achievements of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA.
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