ANKARA: FIVE years of negotiations yesterday culminated in the signing of the Malaysia-Turkey Free Trade Agreement (FTA), made all the more auspicious as both countries celebrated their 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.
The agreement, to take force between the next 12 and 18 months, potentially holds the key to opening doors to the European and Asian markets, with Malaysia and Turkey acting as gateways for each other.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had inked a declaration on the Framework for Strategic Cooperation between Malaysia and Turkey in Kuala Lumpur in January, witnessed the signing ceremony at the Turkish Prime Ministry’s office.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed signed on behalf of Malaysia while Turkey was represented by its Minister of Economy, Nihat Zeybekci.
Under the agreement, Turkey will bind and eliminate import duties on 68.7 per cent, or 8,309 tariff lines of products upon entry into force of the FTA.
This will cover almost 70 per cent or USD247.38 million (RM816.4 million) of Malaysia’s exports to Turkey.
The agreement also covers cooperation between the two countries in small and medium enterprises, halal-related areas, agriculture and food industry, research development and innovation, health (pharmaceutical, food safety and nutrition), energy sources and renewable energy, electronic commerce and automotive by exchanging technical experts and sharing of knowledge and technology.
Earlier, in his keynote address at the Malaysia-Turkey business luncheon hosted by the influential Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), Najib called on Turkish and Malaysia businesses to take advantage of the FTA.
Present at the event were, among others, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and TOBB president Mustafa Rifat Hisarciklioglu.
The agreement, Najib said, would be the catalyst to achieving Erdogan’s call to push bilateral trade between the two countries that stood at USD1.1 billion (RM3.63 billion) to USD5 billion (RM16.5 billion) within five years.
Entering into an FTA with Malaysia would also mean that Turkey would also have access to a market of over three billion as Malaysia have also entered free trade agreements with Asean countries.
The Asean free trade agreements with Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand allow Turkey to tap into a combined market of more than three billion.
Prior to the luncheon, Najib also delivered a lecture on “Turkey-Malaysia Strategic Partnership in a Globalising Asia” at the Turkish think-tank Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) building.
Drawing parallels between the two countries, Najib said he was confident that Malaysia and Turkey would emerge as high-income nations in the next few years.
Both countries, which enjoyed strategic positions globally, shared similarities and challenges, he said.
Najib also said both countries could help to define Asia’s role globally as the continent held enormous potential.
He said this was why superpowers like the United States had shifted their focus on Asia.
Asia’s role, Najib said, was changing and it had to exercise its growing influence by way of forming strategic partnerships in areas such as trade, peacekeeping, strategic trade controls, piracy and maritime, anti-terrorism and countering extremism.
At the function, Najib also said Khazanah Nasional Berhad would own and operate 20 hospitals in Turkey next year with an investment of USD1.1 billion (RM3.63 billion).
It will also invest USD400 million (RM1.32 billion) in Turkey’s second international airport.
Other than the FTA, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Eyyap Sabun Malaysia Sdn Bhd for the latter to consume 1,000 tonnes of various palm oils per day supplied by FGV.
Felda Global Ventures-Cambridge Nanossytems Limited also signed an MoU with Nanokomp Ileri Teknoloji Malzemeleri Arge Dan Ins San Tic Ltd (correct) to explore the distribution of graphene and nanotube products.
At the same time, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia signed memoranda of understanding with Hacettepe University and Ankara University.
Najib and wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Anitkabir Mausoleum yesterday morning, also paid a courtesy call on Turkish president Abdullah Gul at the Cankaya presidential palace.