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Malaysia and US to hold informal FTA talks

Dear friends and colleagues,

Malaysia and the US will be holding informal FTA talks to iron out various issues instead of planning for another formal round of negotiations, according to reports. Both sides last met in April in the US.

The two sides have set dates for exchanging information on goods, textiles, agriculture, technical barriers to trade, services, telecommunication, halal standard operating procedures and intellectual property rights.

An exchange of information related to IPR is targeted for early July, while Malaysia will also provide the US with more information on services by the end of June, namely indicating which services sectors in Malaysia would be able to liberalized.

Both sides hope to exchange information on investment by the end of May and telecommunications by early June. A videoconference on procurement is in the pipeline but no date has been set yet as Malaysia is still consulting internally based on discussions at the last round.

Below is a report on the state of negotiations on the Malaysia-US FTA.

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Third World Network
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Inside US Trade
Malaysia FTA Talks To Continue On Informal Basis, No Date Set
Date: May 25, 2007

The U.S. and Malaysia are not planning another formal round of talks for a free trade agreement as this time, and instead are hoping to make progress toward an FTA through informal talks of smaller groups of negotiators, U.S. and Malaysian government sources said.

The two sides are not planning for another full round "at this time" as some of these groups may be able to conclude their negotiations on specific sectors of the FTA without meeting again, according to a U.S. Trade Representative spokesman. The U.S. and Malaysia have established a work plan for each chapter of the FTA, including timetables for advancing each issue.

A Malaysian official said there would likely be another formal round of talks, but not until the middle of July at the earliest, as the two sides will need until then to exchange information on various chapters of the agreement.

The official said it is important to keep the momentum toward completing an FTA, but acknowledged that the pace now is not as frantic as when the U.S. and Malaysia were trying to complete negotiations by the end of March, which was the deadline for having the FTA considered under fast track.

Because there is no longer any deadline, the two sides will look to make as much progress as possible through teleconferences and exchanges of information, the official added.

A business source this week said there was little actual momentum behind the FTA talks, and that without deadlines for completion the FTA talks were likely to languish, especially as the talks require Malaysia to make tough political choices.

The two sides have set dates for exchanging information on goods, textiles, agriculture, technical barriers to trade, services, telecommunication, halal standard operating procedures and intellectual property rights in order to follow up on the last round of talks in late April, the Malaysian official said.

Malaysia will come back with a revised request on agriculture at the end of this month, the official said. Malaysia was supposed to present the U.S. with the revised request earlier this month but asked for an extension in order to consider including tobacco and alcohol in the FTA and to consider the timeframe for reducing tariffs on those products, the official said. Malaysia has previously resisted including tobacco and alcohol in the FTA.

An exchange of information related to IPR is targeted for early July, when Malaysia will detail when it would be possible to ratify various IPR treaties, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright and Performances and Phonograms treaties (WCT and WPPT) and the Budapest Treaty, the official said.

Malaysia will also provide the U.S. with more information on services by the end of June. This involves figuring out which services sectors in Malaysia would be able to liberalize immediately, and which could liberalize in the medium- and long-term, the official said.

The U.S. and Malaysia are trying to hold a videoconference on procurement but have not yet set a date, and hope to exchange information on investment by the end of this month and telecommunications by early June, the official said. On procurement, the USTR spokesman said Malaysia is still consulting internally based on discussions at the last round and next steps will be considered when the consultations have ended.


 source: FTA Malaysia