The European Union Ambassador to Malaysia Luc Vandebon said the EU would have no porblems working with Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition should they wrest the federal government in the coming general election.
“Absolutely, we want to work with Malaysia. We are ready to work with Datuk Seri Anwar and any other democratically-elected government,” Vandebon told a press conference on Friday.
Very significant statement from a world power
The statement is a tremendous morale booster for the 64-year-old Anwar and PR as they move into the last lap of what is expected to be a very dirty ballot.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has vowed to defend his Umno-BN government’s 55-year hold on power “at all costs”, is likely to dissolve Parliament and call for the country’s 13th general elections in the next few weeks..
“It is a very positive sign as far as PKR and PR are conscerned. The Ambassador said categorically they are prepared to work with any democratically-elected government and this is a very significant statement coming at this time,” Anwar later told reporters when asked for his response to the EU’s statement.
“Their presentation today to PR leaders and Members of Parliament was informative. They raised various economic issues that are of importance to the EU and we will take these views and positions into consideration.”
Umno-BN risks becoming a pariah to the global community
PKR leaders cheered the news, pointing out that EU’s emphasis on co-operation with “democratically-elected” government should be noted by Najib and his Umno-BN coalition.
“EU is one of the world’s most powerful economies and trading blocs. The fact that they came to the PKR headquarters tells its own story. This is a very important statement and should serve as a warning to Najib and Umno-BN,” PKR senior leader Tan Kee Kwong told Malaysia Chronicle on the sidelines of the conference.
“If they try to hang onto power by unjust and unfair means, the EU may not want to play ball with them. Umno-BN will become a pariah as far as the global community is concerned, they should watch it.”
Kee Kwong’s remark comes as the Umno-BN struggles to shake itself free from allegations of vote-rigging and even offering citizenship to illegal immigrants in exchange for their votes.
The concerns of the Malaysian people that there will be widespread electoral cheating are serious and widespread, and reflected in the phenomenal support for free and fair polls movement Bersih, which managed to carry out 3 successful public rallies despite being banned and prosecuted by the Najib administration.
Negotiations to resume after GE13
Vandebon had on Friday morning led a team to the PKR headquarters to discuss the ongoing EU-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Since 2010, the EU has had seven rounds of negotiations with the Malaysian government, but nothing concrete has been finalized. T
The EU team has been told that negotiations will resume after the general election.
“I am not sure we can say there has been any delay … given that these are extremely complex agreements. But we are ready to resume negotiations after the elections with any democratically-elected government,” Vandebon reiterated.
The EU is an economic and political union of 27 member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states.
It has a combined population of over 500 million or 7.3% of the world population, generating the largest nominal world gross domestic product (GDP) of 17.6 trillion US dollars in 2011, representing approximately 20% of the global GDP when measured in terms of purchasing power parity.
Level playing field
Anwar was quick to affirm his coalition’s willingness to work the EU but stressed the need for a “level playing field”.
“Malaysia is a trading nation and effective measures need to be adopted to enhance trade and investment. We will direct the Pakatan Rakyat Economic Secretariat to urgently look into the matter. We will engage with our industry sectors for their feedback. Our general principle is to adopt the principle of free trade with fairness and a level playing field,” said Anwar, a deputy prime minister and finance minister.
In 2011, Malaysia was the EU’s 23rd largest trading partner in goods. Bilateral trade between the EU and Malaysia is dominated by industrial products. The EU mainly imports machinery and appliances and mainly exports electrical equipment and machinery (both ways industrial products account for more than 90% of trade). Other sectors of relevance in terms of EU imports from Malaysia are plastics and rubber and animal and vegetable fats and oils and in terms of exports, mechanical products.
EU imports from Malaysia have gradually increased since 2003, experiencing a significant decrease in 2008-2009 (16% fall). With the exception of fisheries, EU exports have also seen a growing trend since 2000, with an 18% decrease in 2008-2009 due to the economic downturn. Although Malaysia has not been a major trading partner in services so far, opportunities are increasing due to pressure to liberalise key sectors.
In September 2010 the EU Member States approved the launch of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Malaysia. Malaysia is a member of ASEAN and a WTO member.