Malaysia On Track To Realise AFTA By 2010

By D. Arul Rajoo

HUA HIN (Thailand), Oct 25 (Saba) – Malaysia is well on track to realise the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) on Jan 1, 2010 as only 89 products are left without tariff elimination, Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) reported on Sunday.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said the average import duties currently stood at 1.04 per cent compared to about 20 per cent in 1992 when Afta was established.

"We have yet to achieve 100 per cent but that is normal as every country has its own list of sensitive items," he said.

Mustapa said Malaysia was committed to eliminating import duties on 2,123 products, reducing import duties to five per cent for sensitive items like tropical fruits, tobacco and tobacco products, and reducing import duties for rice and rice products to 20 per cent.

"Afta not only brings benefits to the business sector, but also the people on the ground. Ordinary people can now purchase products from Asean countries at a much lower cost than before," he told Malaysian media on the sidelines of the 15th Asean Summit here.

Mustapa said the business community should take advantage of the Afta and tap the huge potential in the 10-member countries with 580 million people, adding that they should not be worried about dumping of cheap import goods at home as there would be special safeguard mechanism to protect local goods.

Asked if there was a danger of Afta being postponed due to conflict between Thailand and the Philippines over the rice tariff, Mustapa said it would proceed as scheduled, with both countries continued with their negotiations.

Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter, had threatened that it would not sign the Afta liberalisation for the rice trade next year if the Philippines does not import at least 360,000 tonnes of rice, tariff-free, annually from Thailand.

Afta’s ultimate target is to totally eliminate import duties on all products with the intention of creating an integrated market where there will be a free flow of goods within the region.

The Afta Council agreed that the target dates to achieve this objective will be 2010 for six Asean members comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and 2015 for the newer members namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

All products have to comply with Rules of Origin (ROO) to enjoy zero per cent duties.

The ROO requires the goods to have 40 per cent local Asean content under Common Effective Preferential Tariff (Cept) as well as comply with standards and sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

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