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Malaysia won’t hasten FTA negotiations with US

Bernama, Malaysia

Malaysia Won’t Hasten FTA Negotiations With U.S.

24 April 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 (Bernama) — Malaysia considers a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. to be "a serious concern" and that is why it does not want to be rushed into wrapping up the negotiations, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz stressed, Tuesday.

"We should take our time to negotiate properly; we should not negotiate in haste or be constrained by the TPA of the U.S. as it is a matter of serious concern. So if it’s going to be beyond July or November, so be it," she said.

The TPA refers to the Trade Promotion Authority that the U.S. Congress grants to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that provides a fast-track approval procedure for FTAs that the USTR has successfully concluded.

Under the TPA, Congress can either accept or reject an FTA that has been negotiated. It cannot go through the agreement item by item and make changes.

The deadline for the current TPA expires on June 30, and the USTR needed to complete FTA negotiations by March 31 to fit the timeline.

The USTR needs to get a fresh TPA from Congress to cover ongoing and future negotiations for FTAs.

Malaysia and the U.S. have just ended the sixth round of their FTA negotiations in Washington, Rafidah said during a question and answer session at the Malaysian Institute of Management’s inaugural CEO Forum here.

"I am happy about the whole development so far (concerning the talks). I do believe that eventually we will come up with FTA," she said.

Hence, probably by the time a new TPA is given to USTR, the FTA can be ready for signing and can come into force, said Rafidah.

She said if the USTR does not get a new TPA then whatever negotiations and agreements signed, whether bilaterally or even within the World Trade Organisation process, will have to be scrutinised by the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner and export market.

In 2006, the value of bilateral trade reached RM170.8 billion, or 16 percent of Malaysia’s total trade globally. Exports to the U.S. totalled RM110.6 billion, or 18.8 percent of Malaysia’s total exports.

In terms of investment, the U.S. was the biggest source of foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector between 2000 and 2006, with a value of RM24.4 billion. In 2006, U.S. investments in Malaysia totalled RM2.5 billion.