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Malaysia-US FTA at technical stage, says Rafidah

Bernama, Malaysia

Malaysia-US FTA At Technical Stage, Says Rafidah

8 May 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 (Bernama) — Negotiations on the Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has reached the technical stage, the Dewan Negara was told Tuesday.

Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said the US made many requests during negotiations and that their expectations were quite high.

She said that based on the reports from the ministry and related agencies, some of the requests made by the US could be considered such as relaxation of trade and customs process.

But there are also requests that cannot be met as they clash with the existing policies or exceed that which Malaysia is offering under the World Trade Organization or the Asean Free Trade Area.

"There have been also requests that could be negotiated by offering other options or with specific feedback from Malaysia," she said in her written reply to Senator Datin Paduka Nor Hayati Onn who wanted to know if MITI had studied the predicament of Chile, Uruguay, Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. Many people in these countries are said to have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector following reduction in tariff after the signing of FTAs.

Rafidah said on the abolishment of tariff, the US requested tariff cut for 561 manufactured goods where the cut for 114 products will be implemented over a five-year period after the FTA is signed.

The products include those made from plastic, rubber, wood, paper, glass, metals, chemicals, as well as machines, electric and electronic goods and automotive components and parts.

So far, six rounds of negotiations for the FTA have taken place.

Rafidah said the government was aware of all issues involved and took into view the impact of an FTA on various matters including employment for the people.

She said the government was giving importance to capital intensive, technology and skills based industries and not labour intensive industries.