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KL not bound by timeframe to decide on M’sia-US FTA - Najib

Bernama, Malaysia

KL Not Bound By Timeframe To Decide On M’sia-US FTA - Najib

18 March 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 (Bernama) — Malaysia is not bound by any timeframe to give a decision on the issues at stake in the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the United States, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Sunday.

The Deputy Prime Minister said Malaysia’s stand on the issue was clear in that Kuala Lumpur would continue the FTA negotiations until both sides reached a consensus on the contentious issues.

"Malaysia is not tied down to any fixed timeframe. We will study thoroughly every issue being negotiated (before deciding on the FTA)," he told reporters when responding to yesterday’s statement by Steve Norton, spokesman for the US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who ruled out the possibility of the talks concluding in two weeks as Kuala Lumpur had not decided on several issues.

A total of 18 issues are being negotiated including on industrial products, textile, customs procedures, intellectual property rights, financial services, investments and the environment.

Malaysia and the US had held a series of negotiations in the past one year, with the latest round in Kota Kinabalu last month.

Najib said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz had conveyed Malaysia’s stand to the US Government.

He refuted assumptions of Malaysia being pressured by the US to wrap up the FTA talks soon.

"No, the US is not pressuring us. Of course, the US would like early resolution but they also understand there are some issues that require a bit of time," he said.

The US had hoped to ink the FTA with Malaysia by July.

Earlier, Najib launched RTM’s latest interview programme entitled "Setiap Anak Permata Negara" at Angkasapuri.