Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann launches negotiations on a free trade agreement between EFTA and Malaysia
Bern, 05.11.2012 - Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann and the Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed, were present on Monday, 5 November at the signing of a framework document defining the scope and modalities of negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Malaysia. A Swiss delegation comprised of many Swiss business representatives and a representative of the cantons attended the signing, as did the Norwegian ambassador to Malaysia.
EFTA and Malaysia previously signed a cooperation agreement in July 2010, which paved the way for the opening of official negotiations. Today's framework document was signed on behalf of Malaysia by the Secretary General of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Rebecca Sta Maria, and on behalf of EFTA by the head of World Trade at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Ambassador Didier Chambovey. The negotiations are expected to cover the exchange of goods and services, intellectual property, investment, public procurement, as well as trade and sustainable development. By opening free trade negotiations between EFTA and Malaysia, Switzerland is implementing an important foreign economic policy objective to secure preferential access to foreign markets for the Swiss economy, thereby taking into account the increasing volumes of trade between Switzerland and Asia.
Malaysia is Switzerland's third most important trade partner within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In 2011 the volume of trade between Switzerland and Malaysia amounted to CHF 1.046bn, comprised of CHF 718m in exports to Malaysia and CHF 328m in imports of Malaysian products, according to the Federal Customs Administration. Swiss exports to Malaysia in the first nine months of 2012 remained at the same level as in the same period of the previous year (+0.3%). Imports from Malaysia grew by 32% in the same period of the previous year. Nearly half of Switzerland's exports to Malaysia in 2011 were in machinery, followed by pharmaceutical products (19%) and watches (12%). A similarly large proportion of imports was in machinery (61%), comprised predominantly of electrical and electronic goods. According to current Swiss National Bank figures, Switzerland's direct investment in Asia amounts to CHF 1.7bn (level as of end 2010). This investment has created around 19,000 jobs in Malaysia.
Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann's stay in Kuala Lumpur marks the end of his five-day economic mission to Singapore and Malaysia. The Federal Councillor used his visit to Southeast Asia not only to strengthen economic, trade and investment relations with the two neighbouring ASEAN member countries, but also to create ties with both countries' education ministers and ask questions on education and research policy. As head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, the Federal Councillor will oversee the new State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), which will become part of his department when the current Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) and the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET) are merged in 2013.
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