It’s looking like a good week for Australian-Southeast Asian cooperation. Not only are rumors flying of Singapore taking over the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Malaysia and Australia have concluded an eighth round of discussions on forming a new free trade agreement.

“We are really serious about doing business with Malaysia,” said Tim Harcourt, chief economist at the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade).

Trade between the two countries is around US$13 billion annually and a FTA would provide new opportunities for cooperation, particularly in the services sector which currently stands at $2 billion with a focus on educational services. Australia is interested in forming new partnerships in financial services and has shown a growing interest in Malaysia’s large Islamic finance sector. Austrade says financial services are the largest contributor to Australia’s national output, ahead of mining, manufacturing and agriculture. Total turnover in the sector was over A$100 trillion (US$98.3 trillion) this year and financial institutions’ assets were over A$4.8 trillion. Both Australia and Malaysia had complementary advantages to offer each other and could combine them to develop new opportunities in third markets.

Besides finance, FTA cooperation could also extend to the healthcare, infrastructure and human capital industries. There is already an existing trade agreement between Asean, Australia and NZ but a specific deal between Australia and Malaysia would lead to additional benefits.

source & article: The Star