Improving trade facilitation is one of the Government's priorities in growing the economy, said International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria.
“It is not so much about market liberalisation. More important is trade facilitation. You can have zero tariffs but if you cannot move a particular product from country A to B due to bottlenecks, then you have negated all that you did to bring tariffs down,” she said at the Asia-Pacific Business Forum 2012.
Dr Sta Maria said the ministry was working with the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Transport Ministry, port authorities, freight forwarders and “other parties in the logistics chain, in order to sort out bottlenecks.”
She also spoke about the Economic Transformation Programme, and said the Malaysian story “is about re-inventing ourselves”.
“In the face of international competition, transformation is our only option. Members of the public sector have been told they have a key role in this national endeavour, that it is in their power to enable or stifle economic growth.”
Dr Sta Maria pointed out that Malaysia's global competitiveness is a function of the collaboration between the public and private sectors, and civil society.
“There cannot be any transformation if only part of the country embraces reform.”
She likened the situation to a dragon boat race where every team member has a role to play.
Among the speakers at the forum was renowned author Larry C. Farrell, who spoke about the power of entrepreneurship in promoting prosperity.
Farrell said Malaysia was the first country in the world to have a ministry for entrepreneur development (he was referring to the Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Ministry.)
The two-day forum, which started yesterday, was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
It was held in collaboration with the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The forum's strategic partners are the Foreign Affairs Ministry, International Trade and Industry Ministry; and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.
Its theme was “Advancing Regional Economic Integration: Connecting Business, Strengthening Partnerships.”
The forum, which was started in 2004, provides a platform for governments, business leaders, academia, civil society and other stakeholders to discuss how to strengthen economic co-operation, regional economic integration and business partnerships.
Datuk Seri Mohamed Iqbal Rawther, who is the chairperson of the ESCAP Business Advisory Council, said it was the first time that the annual forum was held in Malaysia.
He said the forum was previously held in Thailand, China and Kazakhstan.
According to Mohamed Iqbal, there are more than 300 delegates.
“This is one of the largest turnouts that the forum has seen. About 60% are foreigners, with the rest from Malaysia. They are from Singapore, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.”