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US still hopeful of free trade agreement

The Associated Press / Cairns, Australia

US still hopeful of free trade agreement

Sep. 20 2006

The impact of Thailand’s coup on negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United States wasn’t immediately clear, but Washington still hoped to secure a pact when democracy is restored, the top U.S. trade official said on Wednesday.

Talks on the agreement, which began in 2004, were suspended in February as Thailand fell into a protracted period of political unsteadiness that escalated dramatically on Wednesday into a bloodless military coup.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, speaking on the sidelines of a trade meeting in Australia, said Washington had expected the talks to resume after elections that, before the coup, had been due next month.

"The formal negotiations were suspended pending the elections that had been anticipated later on this year and we had assumed that the formal negotiations would resume in December," Schwab told The Associated Press.

Of the coup, she said "It’s too early to tell what the impact will be" on the negotiations.

She said Washington would be looking for "a government that is ready, willing and able to negotiate a free trade agreement" when the situation is resolved, she said.

 source: Business Week