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July 11, 2008

Malaysia, Australia to defer free-trade talks
Malaysia and Australia will not revive their stalled talks on a free-trade pact until the completion of an Australia-New Zealand-Asean trade pact, Reuters quoted their leaders as saying Thursday.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Malaysia that Southeast Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand should try to wrap up their talks as soon as possible.

"It is our inspiration to have any outstanding differences resolved as soon as possible," Rudd, referring to the ASEAN pact, said after talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia is among Australia's top 10 trading partners.

"Malaysia would certainly prefer we pay more attention on this (Asean) negotiation first and after which we can proceed with what we can do bilaterally," Abdullah said.

Australia and Malaysia agreed in 2005 to start negotiations on a free trade deal that could add about A$6.5 billion ($6.23 billion) to Malaysia's economy over the next 20 years and almost A$2 billion to Australia's economy.

The plans for a FTA were unveiled by Abdullah and Australia's then premier John Howard in Canberra during Abdullah's first visit to Australia.

Both countries have set no target date to complete the deal.

At Thursday's talks, both leaders agreed to step up trade and social ties, including giving work visas for young tourists from both countries.

More on Malaysia

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