In the week of the release of the White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, the Gillard Government has today introduced into Parliament legislation for a comprehensive free trade agreement between Australia and Malaysia.
The Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) was signed in Kuala Lumpur in May this year.
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties yesterday recommended that the agreement be adopted.
Craig Emerson, the Trade and Competitiveness Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy, welcomed the committee’s approval of MAFTA, which will further integrate the Australian economy with the fast-growing Asian region.
“This is a timely piece of legislation, coming in the week of the Asian Century White Paper launch,” Dr Emerson said.
Malaysia is Australia’s 10th largest two-way trading partner, and the third-largest among the ASEAN countries.
Once in force, the FTA will guarantee tariff-free entry for 97.6 per cent of current goods exports from Australia. This will rise to 99 per cent by 2017.
Malaysian exporters, meanwhile, will enjoy duty-free entry to the Australian market.
Australia has also agreed to provide a three-year package of up to 21 short- and long-term scholarships, fellowships, awards and exchanges to support Malaysia's economic reform efforts.
“The agreement goes well beyond the lowering or elimination of import tariffs,” Dr Emerson said.
“It is a vote of confidence in the Malaysian people, and in the importance of the Asian region to Australia in the Asian Century.”
Australian exporters of dairy products, automotive parts, iron and steel will benefit from improved market access under the MAFTA.
Malaysia has also committed to allowing majority Australian ownership of service providers in such industries as telecommunications, insurance, education, tourism, research and development, accountancy and mining-related services.
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