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Malaysia-US FTA talks nothing to do with Malaysia’s domestic policies: DPM

Bernama, Malaysia

Malaysia-US FTA Talks Nothing To Do With Malaysia’s Domestic Policies: DPM

17 July 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 (Bernama) — Malaysia’s ongoing negotiations with the United States on a free trade agreement (FTA) will not involve any of Malaysia’s domestic policies such as that related to the special status for Bumiputeras, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday.

"No, it (the FTA negotiations) will not involve any domestic policies ... domestic policies will be outside the ambit of the FTA," he responded when asked about the matter.

Earlier Najib represented Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in opening the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia’s (IKIM) international conference on "The Role of Islamic States in a Globalised World" and delivered Abdullah’s speech.

Replying to a question, Najib said Kuala Lumpur is not tied to any time frame in its FTA negotiations with the US.

"We are not tied to any time frame. We will negotiate and hopefully in due course we will find an agreement," he added.

It has been reported that in the negotiations, the US has been asking for Malaysia’s domestic markets to be liberalised to a greater extent for certain US products and services. But doing so would in some cases impact on some of Malaysia’s domestic policies.

The US negotiators had also tried in vain to wrap up an agreement by the middle of last March so that its approval could have been fast tracked, meaning the US Congress can only approve or reject the FTA in toto without being able to change any of its provisions.

Unless Congress renews its approval for the US President to fast-track FTA approvals, any Malaysia-US FTA will have to pass close scrutiny by Congress.

To this, Najib said: "It is up to the (US) administration. That is beyond our control. The administration will have to negotiate with the US Congress.

"If we finish our negotiations between our two governments, then it is incumbent upon the US government to take it up to Congress."

Najib said Malaysia hoped that eventually both sides will reach an agreement on the FTA.

Yesterday International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said the negotiations are now in smaller groups on particular topics - "We have agreed on some areas and there are also areas that need further discussions, which are mostly at the technical level."

For the FTA, Malaysia is seeking, among others, access for some 600 products into the US market.