MITI continues to negotiate FTAs to open markets for businesses. Malaysia has signed and implemented bilateral FTAs with Japan and Pakistan and recently concluded negotiations with New Zealand. Malaysia is also a party to five regional FTAs namely ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Korea, ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand and ASEAN-India. Currently, Malaysia is negotiating bilateral FTAs with the US, India, Chile and Australia, and the regional ASEAN-EU FTA.
Malaysian companies should capitalise on the regional and bilateral FTAs to gain an edge over their competitors, particularly under these trying times. It should be worth noting that the number of certificates of origin issued by MITI to our exporters, under the preferential schemes of the five regional ASEAN FTAs and the ASEAN CEPT increased 13.0 per cent to 222,476 in 2008. The number of companies exporting under the various FTAs has also increased from 4,160 in 2007 to 4,678 in 2008. For the first five months of this year 87,849 certificates of origin were issued with exports amounting to RM26.6 billion.
While it is heartening to note the increase in the number of Malaysian exporters utilizing the benefits available under the FTAs and the subsequent increase in exports, these numbers still represent a low utilization rate as the full benefits and potential of the FTAs are yet to be exploited by our exporters.
MITI and its agencies have conducted numerous FTA outreach programmes. FTA Service Units at MIDA, MATRADE and SMIDEC have also been established to provide assistance and advisory services. Despite these efforts, response from exporters is still not encouraging. We note repeatedly low attendance and participation in FTA related seminars and dialogues.
We hope to further enhance our consultations with trade and industry associations in order to increase exports under the various FTAs. In this regard timely feedback to MITI on the problems encountered by exporters will allow us to raise these issues at the relevant fora with our bilateral trading partners.