I welcome the assurance given by European Union ambassador Luc Vandebon to Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim and me at yesterday’s briefing that the EU is ready to work with any democratically elected government and that it plans to resume the negotiation process immediately after the general election.

Having obtained the mandate to negotiate with the EU on the Free Trade Agreement since October 2010, the Malaysian government has been dragging its feet in the negotiation process because of the lack of direction and commitment on the part of the leadership. Consequently despite the best efforts by our very capable officials in particular the senior officers in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Bank Negara, little progress has been made because of the reluctance by the political masters to comply with international standards of transparency, accountability, and governance.

Indeed, Singapore has already successfully concluded negotiations while Vietnam and Thailand are at the final stages. The failure on our part to move forward reflects negatively on our state of preparedness under the UMNO-BN led government to abide by the stringent international standards set.

We recognize that the negotiations are complex and cannot be rushed but a Pakatan Rakyat led government will be better placed to move progressively towards conclusive negotiations with the EU because our policy on procurement, transparent tender process, the abolition of rent-seeking and discriminatory practices as well as other issues of governance, is in line with the EU requirements.

While we will also ensure that the interests of our fledgling industries and our SMEs will not be compromised, we are confident that the dismantling of crony-centric practices, murky procedures in retail licensing as well as bureaucratic control will help to unlock our further potential for greater competitiveness.

Mohamed Azmin bin Ali

Deputy President