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US, Malaysia make progress in trade talks


January 19, 2008

US, Malaysia make progress in trade talks

The United States is hopeful of concluding its free trade agreement (FTA) talks with Malaysia by this summer following an encouraging progress of discussions on several key issues during its sixth round of negotiation this week, local media reported on Friday.

Although the four issues discussed in this round of talks - investment, goods and services, intellectual property and legal issues - have yet to be closed, both sides have made progress, U.S. Assistant Trade Representative Barbara Weisel said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

"The U.S. side is hopeful that the progress we achieved this week will propel these negotiations to a successful conclusion. We will continue to work towards concluding this agreement by this summer.

"There is much work ahead and the two sides need to stay focused on how they can close the remaining gaps, many in sensitive areas. The U.S. continues to believe that while challenging, this is not an insurmountable task. We will need political will on both sides to sustain and direct our work and to conclude this agreement," she said

The negotiating team missed the March 31, 2007 deadline to submit the agreement for fast-track approval from U.S. government and for the U.S., the current Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) granted to negotiate FTAs expired in June last year.

The trade talks are now facing a new deadline to conclude before the current U.S. President leaves office, as it would be unlikely that the new administration would be keen to continue, Weisel said.

"It would be fair to say that if we had been negotiating this agreement for three years and had been unable to reach conclusion, it would be difficult to see a new administration want to take up the initiative and try to close it, unless we were extremely close.

"I think if we were that close, we would probably try to do it during this administration," she said.

Weisel also confirmed that the U.S. wants to see government procurement included in the FTA. The Malaysian government, however, has repeatedly stressed that it will not sacrifice national interests to forge a deal with the U.S.

Courtesy Xinhua

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