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Confusion surrounding FTA due to lack of understanding, says Rafidah

Bernama, Malaysia

Confusion Surrounding FTA Due To Lack Of Understanding, Says Rafidah

20 March 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 (Bernama) — Some of the negative comments made on the Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations have been due to a lack of understanding of the FTA and the related issues, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said today.

Clearing the air on the FTA negotiations during RTM 1’s "60 Minutes with a Minister" programme here today, Rafidah said criticisms by several parties with their own agenda had further added to the confusion on the issue.

She said that while some parties were claiming that local farmers would be affected by the FTA, in reality it was not the case.

For example, some people have expressed concerns that there will be an influx of rice from the US in the local market after the FTA and consequently affect local farmers, but this will not be the case, she said.

"In reality, our rice production is not enough and we import 30 percent of our rice and this comes mainly from Vietnam which accounts for 420,000 tonnes or RM415 million worth of our rice import. This compares with only an import of 385 tonnes of rice from the US worth RM1.36 million.

"Our rice is in fact competing with the rice from Vietnam as the grade is the same, and not with that from the US, which is of a different grade and caters mainly to the Japanese and Koreans in the country.

"Our local white rice costs about RM2.20 per kilo while the rice from the US costs about RM10.25 per kilo.

"How can this rice (from the US) compete with the local rice.

"Why is this not being questioned?," she asked.

Rafidah also reiterated the government’s stance that the FTA negotiations would not jeopardise the country’s interest.

"We want the people to have the trust that this government is responsible. We have underlined the three areas that would not be compromised, namely policies related to the rights of Bumiputeras, the government’s absolute right in the implementation of policies and any other matters that the government has the right to implement such as its socio economic objectives," she said.

She also said the officers appointed as negotiators had thorough knowledge and understanding of the issues at hand and would ensure that the interest of the people and the country are given the main consideration during negotiations.