Malaysian CG underscores need to review 15-year-old FTA

Consul General of Malaysia Herman Hardynata Bin Ahmad has 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 a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but this 15-year-old FTA, which was inked in 2008, needs to be reviewed with a view to further improve the existing trade ties between the two brotherly countries.

He said that 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 government”, he added while exchanging views at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI).

President KCCI 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.

Malaysia CG 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 President’s KCCI remarks about reservation of 3,000 acres of land by Sindh government for plantation of palm oil trees, he said that it was a good investment opportunity for Malaysian companies who 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 are also working in Malaysia mostly in the fields of Information Technology, healthcare and as Accountants. Many Pakistani students were studying in Malaysia where they can also avail scholarship being offered to post graduate students for PhD. “A Pakistani student, who is currently doing her PhD. from a university in Kuala Lumpur, has availed this scholarship.”

Malaysia CG further informed that before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysia received 55,000 tourists from Pakistan and since the opening of Malaysia borders in March this year till September, 19,000 Pakistani tourists visited Malaysia.

“As Malaysian tourist are not much aware of Pakistan’s tourism, there is a need to promote tourism opportunities in Pakistan which holds beautiful sites in northern areas including Karakoram Highway which is the highest highway of the world. If effectively promoted, Pakistan would certainly attract good number of Malaysian tourists particularly the adventure-loving tourists. We try to promote and encourage people to come to Pakistan and I have been recommending commencement of direct flights between the two countries in my reports.”

Earlier, President KCCI Tariq Yousuf, in his remarks, pointed out Pakistan’s exports to Malaysia remained at $432.69 million while the imports stood at $1.15 billion in FY22 which clearly indicates that the bilateral trade between the two countries has remained tilted in favor of Malaysia.

He mentioned that Sindh government has decided to reserve 3,000 acres of forestland in Thatta District near the coastal belt for plantation of palm oil trees while the overall coastal belt was spread over 1,000 kilometers which was very suitable for palm oil plantations. “We look forward to Malaysia’s cooperation in developing Pakistan’s Palm oil plantation”, he said and 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.

President KCCI informed that quality of Pakistani salt was far better while the pink salt, being produced in Pakistan, was highly demanded in Malaysia and Pakistan holds the largest salt reserves in the world. “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 Joint Business Forum and promote cooperation with Malaysian companies in the agriculture, textile, foods, pharmaceutical and 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 could match employers’ requirements and get improved remuneration.

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