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US-Asean TIFA likely to be concluded

Bernama, Malaysia

US-Asean TIFA Likely To Be Concluded

By Salmy Hashim

22 August 2006

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Bernama) — The Asean-United States Trade Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa), which is likely to be concluded Friday, is a well-timed development given the growing trade and investment between the two, a US senior congressional aide said here Monday.

The senior aide, who did not want to be identified, said this agreement would be an important benchmark in the ever-growing relationship between the US and Asean.

He said progress in trade and investment went hand in hand with the recent announcement of the Bush Administration’s intention to appoint a US ambassador for Asean Affairs following the introduction of a bill to create the position by Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which was unanimously supported by the Senate.

An official at the Office of the US Trade Representative said both sides would be "working very hard" in Kuala Lumpur to conclude Tifa when they meet on Aug 25 at the 38th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting, which was officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Tuesday.

The US delegation is led by Barbara Weisel, who is also chief negotiator for the US in its ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Malaysia.

Thailand had already indicated that it would not be a party to Tifa if it was concluded in KL as the current government was playing a caretaker role.

However, the country will sign the agreement once a new government is formed following the Oct 15 general election.

Tifa is expected to serve as a guideline for FTA negotiations in the future.

Last year, two-way trade between the US and Asean totalled US$150 billion, making Asean the US’ fourth largest trading partner.