Malaysian envoy urges to revisit 15-year-old FTA

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Nov 24, 2022

KARACHI: Consul General of Malaysia Herman Hardynata Bin Ahmad on Wednesday asked Pakistan and Malaysia to revisit 15-year-old free trade agreement (FTA) with a view to further improve the existing trade between the two countries.

Speaking at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Ahmad said that Malaysia and Pakistan, in addition to having several multilateral agreements as members of UN, OIC and D-8, had also signed 20 bilateral agreements, including the. But the FTA, which was inked in 2008, needed to be reviewed.

Former PM Imran Khan and Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamed agreed in 2019 to review the FTA but due to political hiccups in both countries, this review could not take place.

“As PM Shehbaz Sharif is in-charge of the country’s affairs now and Malaysia is also about to elect its new Prime Minister, we hope that the pending review of the FTA will be taken up by both the governments,” he said.

KCCI President Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, Senior Vice President Touseef Ahmed, Vice President Mohammad Haris Agar, former SVP Arshad Islam, former VP Shamsul Islam Khan and KCCI managing committee members attended the meeting.

The Malaysian envoy said, “Of course, there are challenges when we try to enhance trade but these can be tackled through joint efforts. Malaysia has the advantage of being a member of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) so we always offer our trading partners to use Malaysia as gateway for accessing the ASEAN market.”

Commenting on KCCI president’s remarks about Sindh government reserving 3,000 acres of land for palm oil plantation, he said it was a good investment opportunity for Malaysian companies that were always looking forward to make investments outside, because the Malaysian market was overcrowded now.

“Malaysian investors have already established units in China so they can also look into the possibility of investing in Pakistan as well.”

He said that Malaysia currently faces dire shortage of manpower and was ready to welcome more workforce from Pakistan as currently, out of total assigned quota of 100,000 workers to Pakistan, only 3,000 Pakistani workers were present in Malaysia.

“We would certainly welcome Pakistani workers to support our industries, manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors,” he said, adding that in addition to these 3,000 workers, a large number of Pakistani expats were also working in Malaysia mostly in the fields of information technology, healthcare and as accountants.

Many Pakistani students were studying in Malaysia where they could also avail scholarship being offered to post graduate students for PhD.

Before the pandemic, Malaysia received 55,000 tourists from Pakistan and since the opening of its borders in March this year till September, 19,000 Pakistani tourists had visited. He said Pakistan needed to promote its tourist destinations to Malaysian adventurers to enhance bilateral tourism.

Earlier, KCCI President Tariq Yousuf said Pakistan’s exports to Malaysia remained at $432.69 million while the imports stood at $1.15 billion in FY22, which clearly indicated that bilateral trade remained tilted in favour of Malaysia.

He said Sindh government has reserved 3,000 acres of forestland in Thatta District near the coastal belt for planting palm oil trees. He also asked for reviewing tariff of palm oil products and facilitating crude oil refiners’ tariff in addition to negotiating prices or quotas in the form of forward contracting to help Pakistan develop this industry.

KCCI president said that the quality of Pakistani salt was far better, especially pink salt.

Pointing out that Pakistan holds the largest salt reserves in the world, he said, “Malaysia is importing rock salt from Australia and India but not from Pakistan. Hence, this is an area wherein both countries can enhance their trade. Moreover, Pakistan also has huge potential in rice, fruits, dairy products, textile, footwear, and sports goods etc.”

He also stressed the need for establishing a joint business forum and promoting cooperation with Malaysian companies in agriculture, textile, foods, pharmaceutical, leather and energy sectors. Pakistan, with a population of more than 220 million, has great potential to export its skilled technical and educated human resources to Malaysia.

“Both countries must work together for capacity building of Pakistan’s skilled workforce so that they can match employers’ requirements and get improved remuneration,” he added.