By Tim Dillon, Victorian Commissioner to Malaysia and South East Asia
The trade relationship between Malaysia and Australia has historically been very strong. With the new Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) coming into force on 1 January this year, our bilateral ties can only strengthen further with both sides looking to pursue deeper business engagement.
Bilateral trade opportunities abound
In 2012, Australia became Malaysia’s eighth-largest trading partner, up from twelfth position a decade ago, and accounting for 3.3 percent of Malaysia’s total trade. For Australia, Malaysia is our third-largest trading partner in the ASEAN region and our tenth-largest trading partner overall.
Malaysia is Victoria’s ninth largest trading partner with two-way trade worth A$2.9 billion in 2012. Malaysia’s major exports to Victoria include crude petroleum, computers and telecommunications equipment. Victoria’s major exports to Malaysia included refined, wheat, dairy and prepared food products.
Maximising the MAFTA
With the MAFTA now in full force, the gates are even wider to new export, investment and education opportunities between both countries. It will bring the two economies closer, opening up new avenues for Malaysian businesses to work with Australian investors and suppliers of goods and services, and enable Malaysian consumers to access a host of imported Australian goods and services at much lower costs.
MAFTA builds on the benefits from the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which started for Australia and Malaysia in 2010. It is an outcome of the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper released by the Australian government last year to reduce barriers to trade and investment, particularly with its neighbours and strategic partners like Malaysia.
MAFTA goes well beyond the lowering or elimination of import tariffs. It is a vote of confidence in Malaysia, in its economic reform process and in the importance of the Asian region to Australia. With the growth of this new trade agreement before us, we believe Victoria will remain Malaysia’s ‘strategic bridge’ into the Australian market in the years ahead.
In particular, Victoria can add value to Malaysia as it strives to achieve its goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020, particularly in Vocational Education and Training (VET), infrastructure and urban planning for sustainable living, and healthcare.
An interesting example is Victoria’s Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) which is positioning itself as a major trainer in equine studies. In Malaysia, NMIT has participated in local events, such as the Annual Johor International Horse Show organised by Universiti Teknologi MARA.
NMIT is also currently working with accredited skills centres in Malaysia through the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (NAPEI) with support from PEMANDU for the ‘train the trainers’ programme. The first batch of training under this project with NAPEI is expected to commence in September 2013 with 50 Malaysian trainers participating in the programme.
A Sustainable Future
The Victorian Government, which has a well-established business office based in Kuala Lumpur for the South East Asia region, believes that Malaysia’s economic reforms, particularly through the Greater Kuala Lumpur projects present opportunities for trade growth between Victoria and Malaysia that stretch beyond pure capital gains.
Melbourne is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most liveable and sustainable cities. With high-value knowledge-based service industries at its core, and with an enviable stock of low-carbon rating buildings encompassing world leading green-technologies and systems; Victoria has the experience and expertise to continue making valuable contributions towards Malaysia’s growth and sustainability.
Tim Dillon is the inaugural Commissioner for Victoria to Malaysia and South East Asia. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Commissioner Dillon represents Victoria’s interests in the region, facilitating trade and investment opportunities and strengthening bi-lateral relations through strategic collaboration between Victorian and South East Asian partners. The Victorian Government Business Office (VGBO) is currently organising the South East Asian Super Trade Mission which kicks off in Kuala Lumpur on 16 June 2013. For more information, please call VGBO at +603 2055 1502.
Universiti Teknologi MARA’s 2013 Annual Johor International Horse Show will be held on 6 – 9 June 2013 at the Equine Centre, UiTM Johor. For more information, please visit http://www.utm.my/equine/ijhs2013/
Photo credit: Universiti Teknologi MARA