July 24, 2008
9th Round Of Malaysia-US FTA Talks In November, Says Muhyiddin
From Mohd Arshi Mat Daud
GENEVA, July 24 (Bernama) — The Malaysia-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks are set to advance into the ninth round in November, International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Thursday.
He said the negotiations were not hampered by several contentious issues that Malaysia wants to remain non-binding.
"This was decided at the last meeting in Washington," he said pointing to the eighth round of FTA talks from July 14 to 18, focusing on services, investment, intellectual property rights, agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary measures as well as legal and final provisions.
Issues such as government procurement, competition policy, environment, labour, financial services and other sensitive areas could only be discussed but stay non-negotiable and non-binding, he said.
"We have a certain stand. What we think is possible, we may open up, but on matters that we cannot afford to open widely to foreigners, then the policy must be maintained.
“This is the firm stand that we have taken in the financial services and several other fields. They (US), if possible, wants us to open up everything," he said when asked on the latest developments on the US-Malaysia FTA.
Muhyiddin was speaking to Bernama on the sidelines of a meeting with about 30 leading trade ministers.
The meeting, convened by the World Trade Organization (WTO), entered the fourth day Thursday to clinch a deal to wrap up the Doha Round of the global trade talks that began seven years ago.
Muhyiddin, who on Wednesday held his first bilateral meeting with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, said the latter looked forward for the continuity of the bilateral FTA negotiations.
“She has begin to understand that in Malaysia there are policies that they need to follow and understand like policies to protect national interests, on the roles of government-linked companies and Bumiputera policy.
Similarly, in the competition policy for which a legal instrument on the matter was absent in Malaysia whereas the US was more advanced with its laws such as those related to fair trade and anti-monopoly.
“It looks like they have begin to understand but we want to explain further on what we consider as our right which we cannot compromise and will not compromise," he said.
Muhyiddin said Malaysia would explain further its stand on these issues in the ninth round so that Washington would have greater appreciation of its limitations in the FTA talks.