IMPLEMENTATION matters! That’s the 2016 clarion call for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
This year sees us kicking off the 11th Malaysia Plan (RMK11). This comes into effect in an increasingly challenging environment of low oil prices and global economic uncertainty, coupled with geo-political concerns.
As such, the imperative for MITI has to be implementation and monitoring so that we achieve what we set out to do.
The following is a non-exhaustive MITI 2016 to-do list covering national, regional and multilateral level initiatives.
At the national level, a number of important MITI-related documents were launched, mostly in 2015, to support RMK11.
These include the 2nd Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030, the Logistics and Trade Facilitation Masterplan, the Services Sector Blueprint, the National E-commerce Council (launched in 2014), the National Export Council, the Malaysia Services Development Council (2007), and the Human Capital Council. The newly established National Aerospace Industry Coordination Office in MITI will work with industry to effectively implement the Aerospace Industry Blueprint.
The focus will include investment in research and technology, human capital development, and strengthening the local supply chain.
Trade facilitation will be intensified. An important deliverable will be getting more of our exporters to use the self-certification facility under Malaysia’s bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey.
Self-certification is a process which removes the hand of Government from the export process, shifting, instead, the onus on to the exporters to ensure compliance with the rules when accessing the preferences under these FTAs.
In addition, in the first quarter of 2016 we will fully implement the e-permit system. All Approved Permits will be processed electronically. This is in line with our commitment to continuously improve our service delivery.
Trade facilitation involves not only MITI but also our counterparts in Government and industry. So we will deepen our engagement with them to ensure that we make it easier, faster, and, perhaps, cheaper to do business in Malaysia.
In this, the Good Regulatory Practice work by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation will be key as we must ensure that we do not have more regulation than necessary.
The MITI-led National E-commerce Council will see a higher level of coordination among regulators so that more Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises can grow their business through an enabling environment.
The monitoring of the implementation of the Services Sector Blueprint is not just for the development of the sector but also to ensure coherence in Malaysia’s services liberalisation commitments across our international agreements. The national export drive will be better coordinated through the National Export Council, with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) as its secretariat.
MATRADE set up the Integrated Centre for Export in November 2015 as the go-to place for exporters and traders requiring advice, assistance and export-related information.
Likewise, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) will step up its engagement with the other investment promotion agencies in the country.
MITI’s role in human capital and talent development is to ensure that we have the talents necessary for the value-added and knowledge industries being promoted under RMK11. For example, MITI will continue to fund the Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology to promote industry-driven research and development to increase high value-added manufacturing activities.
In addition, MITI will work with Technical and Vocational Educational and Training bodies and industry to ensure we have a pool of employment-ready skilled workers.
Agencies under MITI, namely, MATRADE, MIDA, SMECorp, the Halal Development Corporation, the Malaysia Automotive Institute, and the Malaysia Steel Institute will continue their promotional and industry development work across sectors, with special focus on the bumiputra business community.
This year will also see more engagements and outreach to ensure that businesses and the persons-on-the-street appreciate the benefits of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement. We will also intensify work with businesses to ensure that they take advantage of the benefits under the Asean Economic Community and the 13 Free Trade Agreements that are already in force.
At the regional level, trade facilitation will be high on the Asean agenda as we work to dismantle non-tariff barriers in the region. This will involve the streamlining of Customs processes and procedures, including expanding the programme for self-certification in Asean. We also continue to align standards for goods and services, and expand the coverage of Mutual Recognition Agreements.
Key deliverables for Asean this year will be the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement and the substantial conclusion of negotiations to establish the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
RCEP will see the deepening of regional economic integration between Asean and her six dialogue partners, namely, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
At the multilateral level, MITI must ensure that we are ready to implement the second phase of the WTO Information Technology Agreement when it comes into effect on July 1, 2016.
This agreement will see the staged elimination of tariffs for a range of electronics and electrical products. MITI will engage the relevant industry associations to ensure that their members take full advantage of this multilateral liberalisation initiative.
From June 1-2 this year, Malaysia takes the global centre stage as we host the World Economic Forum East Asia Summit. This is an opportunity to showcase our successes and potential even as we hear from global business leaders.
To be sure, we are in for another busy year and we look forward to working with our friends from the public and private sectors as well as civil society.
Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria is Secretary-General of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. The views expressed here are entirely her own.