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NEWS UPDATES 12 January 2010

Malaysian PM to talk bilateral FTA with India during visit

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Malaysia Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak on Monday said that the India-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement was put on the "backburner" due to protests in India's southern state of Kerala where livelihoods of farmers may be affected due to cheaper imports from the South East Asian nation, Indian state news agency PTI reported.

Najib who is embarking on a five-day India visit will discuss the issue with the New Delhi. He will hold bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 20.

The issue was put "on backburner due to adverse reaction from one of the Indian states (Kerala). I would like to see this move forward. Time is now ripe to put it back on track," he said during an interaction with visiting Indian journalists here.

"We want to conclude it by the end of this year. I will rise the issue (with Indian officials) during my visit," he said when asked when the FTA is likely to be signed between the two countries.

Fishermen in Kerala are unhappy because imports from Asean countries like Malaysia and Singapore will affect the livelihoods of traditional and small scale fishery sectors.

In Kerala, there had been strong agitation from coconut, cashew-nut and spice growers, who fear the deal, would jeopardise their livelihoods, as cheaper products from neighbouring countries enter the country.

Razak will be accompanied by one of the biggest delegations comprising eight ministers, five chief ministers and business leaders. Najib said his visit to India will be "substantive and not purely ceremonial. "It will enhance Malaysia's political and economic relationship with India," he said, adding he would attract more Indian investments for Malaysia.

He said Malaysia and India were engaged in discussions to conclude an extradition treaty. Officials at the Prime Minister's Office said India was to get back to Malaysia on the issue. "It is still being negotiated. They (India) are supposed to come back to us," he said.

He said the bilateral trade has reached $10 billion and there is scope for the level to be increased. The premier said the Foreign Ministry is "studying" 13 MoUs to be signed during his trip. He said the both will sign MoUs in the field of road construction and other areas.


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