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US aims to conclude FTA by summer, insists on govt procurement

BERNAMA | 17 Jan 2008

US Aims To Conclude FTA By Summer, Insists On Govt Procurement

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 (Bernama) — Malaysian and US trade officials are working towards concluding a strong US-Malaysia free trade agreement (FTA) by this summer ahead of the US election on Nov 4.

"If we are unable to reach a conclusion, it will be difficult to see a new administration wanting to take up the initiative and try to close it," said US chief negotiator, Barbara Weisel, today.

She agreed the ideal scenario would be to conclude the negotiation and go through all the legal procedures before the presidential election.

Weisel said Washington still wanted to include government procurement on the negotiation table although Malaysia had expressed its opposition.

"The Malaysian government is aware that the US needs to see the government procurement chapter to conclude the agreement (but) exactly how it happens is something that’s going to be decided when we get there," Weisel told a press conference after the conclusion of the sixth round of the trade talks here.

The location and timing for the next round of talks had not been decided by both parties.

The US had earlier said it would open approximately US$250 billion (US$1=RM3.26) worth of procurement to Malaysia under the FTA.

The procurement was presently not available to Malaysian firms because without the FTA, the US government is generally prohibited from purchasing goods or services from Malaysia.

Commenting on the just-concluded round, she said, "We have largely reached the goal set for the week. The two sides have moved significantly on a wide range of issues... progress we made this week is encouraging."

Agreements were achieved in areas related to goods, services, intellectual property and legal issues.

"We also agreed on the next steps the two sides will communicate on a full set of issues (to be negotiated) and we’ve agreed on the coming weeks on when it will be appropriate to meet again," said Weisel, who is also the US Trade Representative.

Asked if the trade negotiation with Malaysia, which has entered the third year was a difficult one, she said each FTA negotiation has its own challenges.

 source: Bernama