KUALA LUMPUR,. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he hopes that both Asean and China can continue to work on upgrading the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) for mutual benefit.
This followed an agreement to carry out a joint feasibility study to improve the effectiveness of the ACFTA to ensure it becomes more inclusive, modern, and comprehensive.
The premier said it is imperative for Asean and China to diversify efforts on the trade and investment fronts.
“The ACFTA agreement remains the foundation of Asean-China trade relations and continues to play an important role in facilitating trade between the two sides. Therefore, it is important that this agreement continues to be relevant and benefit businesses and regional communities,” he said in his speech virtually during the opening ceremony of the 19th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO).
Ismail Sabri said governments must continue to work together and encourage multilateral trade relations to facilitate economic recovery in the region post-pandemic and also to face any unexpected crisis that may occur in the future due to geopolitical uncertainties.
“As outlined in the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework or ACRF for short, we have to strive to keep the supply chain connectivity uninterrupted and facilitate the movement of essential goods and services by removing trade barriers.
“Supported by key infrastructures such as ports, airports, and logistics networks that are adapted to the new norms, I am confident that trade activities can always run smoothly, thus further contributing to regional economic recovery efforts,” he said.
The Prime Minister said this matter is even more critical for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are the economic backbone of a country.
“I would strongly encourage both Asean and China to intensify cooperation in digital economy partnership to drive the use of technology among SMEs to empower their businesses,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri said the Malaysian Pavilion at CAEXPO 2022 will feature three categories as the main attractions, namely food and beverage; lifestyle; and healthcare and wellness. He said the exhibition will be attended by various government agencies, SMEs, and leading conglomerate companies in the Asean region such as Petronas, Air Asia, and the Shangri-La Hotel group.
“I was made to understand that this CAEXPO exhibition is one of the outcomes of the cooperation under the ACFTA. I am hopeful that this CAEXPO exhibition continues to provide opportunities for various levels of the Malaysian business community to explore cooperation in the trade sector, which will be able to stimulate trade activities for faster economic recovery.
“This is also in line with this year’s CAEXPO theme which emphasises shared prosperity, which is also the main agenda of Malaysia’s economic development,” he said.
On the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, he said the agreement, which was signed after eight years of negotiations, demonstrates a positive sign to the world that Asean and China, together with the other RCEP partners, are committed to economic integration, ensuring that transnational supply chains are not affected and keeping markets open amid the ravages of a global pandemic.
“This agreement offers local businesses wider market access and the opportunity to improve regional supply chains and diversify their respective production networks while helping to reduce the cost of doing business.
“I am pleased that this agreement will provide immense opportunities to bolster regional businesses and supply chains, as well as diversify production network for seamless integration towards global economic recovery and growth,” he said.