KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade), which urged small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of the free trade agreements (FTAs) that have not been widely utilised, said over 850 SMEs have signed up for the eTrade programme. The programme seeks to accelerate exports via e-commerce. Matrade deputy CEO II of exporters development Sharimahton Mat Saleh said, she expects to achieve the targeted 1,500 SMEs under the first phase of the eTrade programme by end of October, under a collaboration with Alibaba.com as part of the Digital Free Trade Zone initiative. Matrade offers incentives in the form of e-vouchers for Malaysian SMEs who list their products on Alibaba.com. “The fees are over RM6,000, but Matrade subsidises RM5,000 so SMEs pay only RM1,138. With the listing, SMEs also enjoy value-added services like microsite listing and showcase, with training by Alibaba and its Malaysian agents so that companies learn how to attract visitors to their products,” she told a press conference after a seminar titled Exploring International Markets organised by Matrade and Yayasan Amal Maaruf Malaysia here today. Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Datuk Ahmad Maslan said the eTrade platform helps businesses grow 13 times faster compared with the traditional brick and mortar model. “When listed (on the eTrade platform), the market opportunity is big. It is one of the easiest approaches to enter the international market but one must fulfill the quality and standards, as well as be able to fulfill customers’ requests,” said Ahmad. He also urged SMEs to utilise the FTAs available, as one of the reasons for low FTA adoption is that they do not know which countries have FTAs. “If they export to nine countries in Asean, they get all the facilities under the FTA that has been signed under AFTA (Asean Free Trade Area). The details are in www.miti.gov.my,” said Ahmad. He said Malaysia has signed seven bilateral FTAs with Japan, Pakistan, New Zealand, India, Chile, Australia, and Turkey. Malaysia is also actively involved with multilateral FTAs via Asean with six regional trading peers, which are China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. He said SMEs should focus on countries that have an FTA with Malaysia and export to these countries to benefit from tax breaks and reduced trade barriers. SMEs constitute more than 98.5% of businesses registered in Malaysia, however, their contribution to Malaysian exports is a mere 18.6%. In the SME Masterplan, the government hopes to increase this figure to 23% by 2020. Earlier, the seminar saw participation from 157 business owners, including bumiputra-owned companies who are keen to start their export venture. The seminar offered a platform for the companies to gain insights on market opportunities in global markets, particularly in East Asia, Asean, Middle East and Africa. Malaysia’s total trade surpassed the 1 trillion mark in the January to July 2017 period, with a value of RM1.008 trillion, expanding by 22.7% from the corresponding period in 2016. The expansion was supported mainly by trade with Asean, China, US, EU, Japan, India and Taiwan.