Bernama | Wednesday October 1, 2008
Msia-US FTA : ‘We’re open to non-binding talks’
KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia has moved one step forward in the US-Malaysia free trade agreement (FTA) talks, specifically on the issue of government procurement.
“Earlier, it was a no-talk issue (but now) the Cabinet has given some indications that a non-binding sort of discussion (can take place). It is not a negotiation or commitment. It is just a discussion,” said International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said the ad hoc committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has allowed discussions on other contentious issues like competition policy, intellectual property and labour.
“The ninth round of FTA talks is set to take place by year-end,” he said at the Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house of the prime minister and Muslim cabinet ministers at the Putra World Trade Centre here on Wednesday.
Muhyiddin said there was no fixed deadline to conclude the talks but Malaysia was pushing hard for the FTA.
“In general, we hope for a boost in trade (from the FTA) but it has to be on the basis of a win-win situation,” said Muhyiddin.
On the meltdown of the financial sector in the US and Europe, he said the government was monitoring the situation as it would also have an impact on the global economy.
He said as of now, there was no clear indication of how the problem was going to be resolved and with the rejection of a US$700bil bailout plan by US lawmakers, “it will keep things hanging for a while.”
Muhyiddin said he has asked the Malaysia External Trade Corp offices in US and Europe to be alert and inform the ministry on the situation.
He said the ministry would also hold talks with the exporters on the trade trends.
“Currently, trade surplus is still encouraging and exports of electrical and electronic goods remain reasonable, and we hope there is no major impact in the total trade figures,” he said.
Muhyiddin said even though Malaysias export market has been diversified during the past two years to include markets Middle East, China and India, the US was still an important trading partner with 16% of the country’s global trade.