New Straits Times | 2008/03/13
US looking forward to to seal FTA with Malaysia
By : Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi
JOHOR BARU, Thurs :
The United States is looking forward to tie-up the Free Trade Agreement with Malaysia now that a new government has been formed after the 12th general election.
US ambassador to Malaysia James R. Keith said after negotiating the terms for almost two years, the US was looking forward to close the deal soon.
"With the new government installed, we look forward to close the deal soon," he said to reporters after attending a luncheon hosted by Johor Corporation at Persada Johor International Convention Centre here today.
Keith, who was appointed ambassador last September, said the US was hoping to reduce the barriers on government procurement and financial services.
"Once we conclude the FTA, Malaysian firms can access the US government market through government procurement procedures, which is the largest of such market in the world," he said.
On financial services, Keith said Malaysia’s innovations in Islamic finance have caught the attention of the US private sector and now finance corporations like Citibank and American insurance firm like AIG are offering Islamic finance and assurance services.
Citing strong US-Malaysia bilateral trade last year, the US exported RM11.7 billion worth of goods and services into Malaysia while the latter exported RM32.8 billion into US.
"Malaysia enjoyed a significant surplus in our bilateral trade relationship and it is growing stronger every year,” he said. “That just shows how open US market is, the competitiveness of Malaysian suppliers in US market and the importance of US market for Malaysia’s economy year after year.”
Malaysia is the 16th largest trading partner with US which makes Malaysia trade relationship is larger than US bilateral trading relationships with Australia, Brazil India or Thailand.
There are about 150 US corporations with established business operations in the country that includes Intel, Dell, Motorola, Agilent, Mattel and Western Digital, with more than 54,000 strong work force.
On his first one-day visit to Johor, Keith said he was impressed with the development plan for Iskandar Development Region and described Johor’s economy as dynamic and vibrant. Keith also disclosed that American giants like GE and were investing heavily into Iskandar Development Region, however he was keeping mum on the details.
"I believe that IDR will become a magnet which will attract more American investors in the imminent future," he said.
Keith added that they received a steady stream of enquiries on opportunities in IDR and Malaysia from American companies, which he said proved the strong economic ties enjoyed by both countries.