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US keen to conclude FTA with Malaysia

US Keen To Conclude FTA With Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 2008 (Bernama) — The United States is keen to conclude the Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as early as possible under the President-elect Barrack Obama’s new administration, said its Ambassador to Malaysia, James R. Keith Monday.

He said the US team had worked hard to complete the negotiations before the end of the Bush administration and that it now intended to pick it up again with the new administration.

"This is among the complicated negotiations. It is going to take some time. We are interested in concluding it as early as possible in the new administration. We hope it is true for the Malaysian side too," he said at a Media Roundtable discussions here.

Asked whether the government procurement system was still the main obstacle to the negotiations, Keith said: "I wouldn’t say that there is any one main obstacle to the talks. I think you have heard from other negotiators in the past that the financial sector and government procurements are two important areas, services in general is also an important area."

He said there were a number of tough issues, that both sides had to get into.

He also said the US chose to engage and get started on the pact with Malaysia as it saw the opportunity for a high quality agreement.

"This is a tremendous sign of American respect for the Malaysian economy. This is the only one pending negotiations for a bilateral FTA anywhere in the world. We have faith in the Malaysian economy and decided to invest in it," he said.

He also believed that if there were going to be an agreement, it would be one that the Malaysian negotiators believe will serve the Malaysian people’s national interest.

Nevertheless, he added: "It has to be recognised that in a win-win agreement there are compromises on both sides. You have to do a little bit of give and take in order to get where you want to go."

Keith said the US was Malaysia’s number one market, almost completely open and Malaysia was being held back in some aspects by some of the restrictions in the market.

Touching on the current economic turmoil, Keith said although the US was facing a tough time now, he was confident that the country would continue to be the key driver in the world’s economic growth.

"As we manage the economic crisis, investment in future will include both in energy and environment as part of the overall economic and trade picture. Investments in alternative energy of all kinds."

He said the country was also looking at some real changes in the basis of its economy over the next five to 25 years or so.

"This is very strong interest in making some tough decision about the future and using as much creativity and energy as we possibly can, in creating an agenda that will help us deal with the long term challenges facing the American economy," he said.

Keith said much concerns had been expressed about the new administration as it was getting its economic house in order, and there had been fears that there could be protectionism in the US.

However, this was addressed during the G20 Meeting on November 15 in Washington, and again at APEC, he said.

"All our senior leaders addressed precisely this issue, because we have a fair amount of success in coordinating globally our monetary policy through our central bankers."

He said it was very important now that they find ways to ensure they can have good coordination between their economies so that they can keep the trade flows going and sustaining each other economy.

They should act not just to sustain but also expand their trade, he said.

On the measures to be taken by the US, he said the country would have to look into ways to creating jobs.

Keith said the US was now on the look out for signals from the Malaysian side to get the FTA moving.

"Certainly what we have been hearing so far from the Malaysian government there is an interest in moving the FTA along and they are also interested in regional economic development both in APEC and ASEAN perspectives.

"We also have something going forward called the Trans Pacific Partnership. It is our desire regionally to expand cooperation and reduce trade barriers and especially focus not only on Trans Pacific Partnership but broaden outlook on services including financial services, an area we absolutely want to see progress. We remain committed to expanding opportunities in the trade sector related to services."

 source: Bernama