Free trade is a two-way street, Ayrault

Thibault Danjou is a French entrepreneur operating in Asia (Japan, Singapore) since 1993. Below is his opinion on trade liberalisation.

KUALA LUMPUR: FRENCH Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wants to sell French flagship aircraft to Malaysia, but doesn't seem interested in Malaysia's "red gold".

Ayrault is touring East Asia and arrived in Malaysia yesterday for a two-day official visit.

These last few days, it has been rumoured in French media that Ayrault intends to make a case for Dassault Aviation fighter-aircraft Rafale, in which Malaysia has shown interest. 

Nuclear power station appears to be the other subject matter the French Prime Minister is ready to discuss.

Strengthening trade relations with one of our very first partners in Asia quite frankly seems like a jolly good idea. Our economic development is undeniably linked to our ability to export and the trade balance with Malaysia has just begun to even out.

We will offer French aircraft, French know-how in nuclear power stations just like we successfully have French cars or defense so far. 

Malaysia - and Southeast Asia in general - is a booming market. It is critical that we hop on the train while we can, rather than being stranded at the station.

But to make those deals, France needs to more clearly commit to the set of rules inherent to free trade. 

Ayrault will have to demonstrate to his Malaysian counterpart as a sign of good faith that France is open-minded and worthy of such good trade relations. 

It is obviously essential to remain as respectful and listen to the needs and wants of the countries with which we engage in international trade.

This hasn't always been the case with Malaysia. For instance, just recently the National Association Smallholders Malaysia has published an open letter addressed to Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq. 

About 240,000 farmers asked Bricq to join in their effort to put an end to French smear campaign against palm oil. According to them, large brands from the French food industry often rely on advertisement belittling palm oil as a mean to show corporate social responsibility.

On the spot, Bricq explained that French authorities were already looking into it and added that she would personally make sure to let Ayrault know about it. 

Weeks later, nothing seems to have been done. This sort of condescending, patronising attitude surely cannot be sustained.

Palm oil is such a tremendous part of Malaysian economy. It represents the livelihood of more than one million Malaysians. We simply cannot afford to overlook this issue. 

French Prime Minister, please take the demands of our international trade partners into account. Carefully listen to Malaysia just like you would the United States, Germany or China. Everything to help France win those wonderful international deals!