US adopts pragmatic approach in FTA talks: MIER

Bernama | 22 July 2008

US adopts pragmatic approach in FTA talks: MIER

KUALA LUMPUR: The United States is adopting a pragmatic approach in its free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Malaysia, according to a think thank.

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) said that the US was keen to conclude the negotiations on a successful note as it was facing problems in its talks with South Korea and Thailand.

“Our access to the US market is far more valuable than the US access to our market, and in that sense, the scale is in our favour,” said MIER executive director Professor Emeritus Dr Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem.

“I don’t think they are going to adopt a very hardline approach with respect to us. I think they look at Malaysia as a modern Muslim country and want to have successful trade negotiations,” he told Bernama.

Mohamed Ariff said the problem was that the US was not confining the negotiations to purely trade matters, but also including trade related issues such as procurement, competition policy and services.

“The US is also insisting on negative lists for exemptions which Malaysia doesn’t want to give away, I think we should guard against blanket kind of approval because there are many services that we can’t foresee now and may sign away,” he said.

Malaysia, he added, needed to be cautious, especially on its rights to protect certain industries or services. Mohamed Ariff said the US sometimes used its negotiations with Singapore as a model for others. “It is easier to do an FTA with Singapore because it is a small country with small economy and specialising in certain sectors,” he said.

“But you cannot use that as a template for everybody. So that is basically the problem and we have to be cautious with this,” he added. On procurement, Mohamed Ariff said he felt that the US was mindful of local sensitivities.

“I don’t think that they are going to twist our arms in that sense. They are willing to make compromises,” he said.

“I think they will probably accommodate our concerns,” he added.

The fourth round of the Malaysia-US FTA talks is scheduled to be held from Jan 8 to 12, 2007, in San Francisco.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and US Trade Representative Robert Portman had announced the start of negotiations on March 8, 2006, in Washington, DC.

The US had said that it hoped to reach a deal by early 2007 so that this could be presented to the US Congress before the US trade promotion authority expires in June.

source : Borneo Post

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