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July 16, 2007

Boosting trade links via Asean FTA
Malaysia and Korea can further boost trade and investment links by riding on the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement mechanism, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said July 16.

She said with the coming into force of the Asean-Korea Trade in Goods Agreement on June 1, 2007, 45 percent of Korean goods would enjoy lower tariffs of between 0-5 percent when entering Asean markets.

The liberalisation measures under the FTA, including the phased removal of tariffs by 2012, on most products, would act as a catalyst for Asean and Korean communities to further enhance trade and investment flows, she said.

"The potential will be expanded further once the on-going negotiations on services and investments are concluded by the end of this year."

"The completion of the whole package and the realisation of the Asean-Korea FTA would further facilitate cross border investments and expansion of trade to cover the services sector, between Korea and Asean in general and Malaysia in particular," she told about 350 participants at the seminar on "Business Opportunities In Malaysia" here.

The minister is leading a trade and investment mission to Korea, Japan and Hong Kong from July 15 to 24.

Members of the mission include Malaysian Industrial Development Authority director-general Datuk R. Karunakaran, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Noharuddin Nordin, government officials and private sector representatives.

Present at the seminar were Korea's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy, Kim Young-Ju and president of Korea Bio Venture Association, Dr Jongsei Park.

Rafidah said the expansion of trade and economic linkages between Malaysia and Korea was crucial as both Korea and Malaysia are open economies where trade form a significant portion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to the World Trade Organisation, in 2006, Korea was the 11th largest export and 13th largest trading importer in the world, while Malaysia was the 19th largest exporter and 23rd largest importer, she said.

The minister said the Asean-Korea FTA also offers opportunities for Korean companies to take advantage of Malaysia's strategic position in the heart of Asean to access a market of more than 560 million and a combined GDP of US$1,064 billion.

"Therefore, I urge Korean businessmen to form joint ventures or alliances with Malaysian businessmen to expand their markets and investment opportunities in the region," the minister said.

In the past decade, bilateral trade between Malaysia and Korea doubled, from US$6.57 billion in 1997 to US$12.86 billion in 2006.

In 2006, Korea was Malaysia's sixth largest trading partner with total trade of RM47.2 billion from RM39.5 billion in 2005, with exports valued at RM25.9 billion.

Between January and April this year, Malaysia's exports to Korea rose 17.7 percent accounting for US$2.46 billion compared with US$2.09 billion in the same period last year.

As of April 2007, Korea was the eighth largest investor in Malaysia accounting for US$3.15 billion or 3.9 percent share of total investments, since 1980. Bernama

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