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NZ and Malaysia launch FTA negotiations

31 March 2005 Media Statement

NZ and Malaysia launch FTA negotiations

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today that Malaysia and New Zealand have agreed to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement as soon as possible.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who is visiting New Zealand, met Helen Clark today. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was later joined by the five Malaysian ministers accompanying him for discussions with the New Zealand Cabinet.

The announcement follows studies in both New Zealand and Malaysia on the benefits of an FTA. New Zealand’s study concluded that the two economies are complementary and that such an agreement would benefit the people and economies of both countries.

Helen Clark said the FTA process was an exciting development in the two countries’ bilateral relationship. It is expected that negotiations should be completed in 2006.

“We both have strong and relatively open economies, but there is scope for improvement particularly in the services sector and with investment flows,” Helen Clark said.

“An ambitious and forward-looking bilateral trade agreement with Malaysia will provide impetus to the free trade negotiations that New Zealand, together with Australia, has launched with the ten ASEAN countries.”

“The ASEAN/Australia/New Zealand agreement, when concluded, will encompass more than 500 million people.

“It should help strengthen the economies of all twelve countries involved, including those less developed countries in ASEAN whose economic advancement is important for the prosperity of our region.”

Malaysia is New Zealand’s largest ASEAN trading partner and our tenth largest trading partner globally.

Business links between Malaysia and New Zealand have a strong foundation. Two-way trade in goods is worth over $1.2 billion a year. Malaysia is a valuable supplier to New Zealand of petroleum and electric and electronic goods.

Malaysia also exports timber and furniture and a variety of agricultural commodities and prepared foods. New Zealand's main exports to Malaysia are dairy products, high quality meat and other foods.

Helen Clark said aspects of this trade are reflected in investment patterns: Malaysia is a major investor in New Zealand forestry; New Zealand has invested in the Malaysian dairy sector.

“There is scope to broaden and deepen our economic partnership.

“The agreement to launch negotiations towards an FTA should result in a greater opportunities for both sides to build our already good business links and to open new horizons,” Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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