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News Admin
 
Date
 17/07/2006
News Provider
 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
News Source
 Bernama
Headline
 U.S.-Malaysia Set For Round Two Of FTA Talks

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Bernama) -- The United States would like to see a "win-win" free trade agreement with Malaysia with both sides benefiting from an immediate duty-free status for much of its trade, Barbara Weisel, chief negotiator for the U.S., said here Friday.

Weisel, who is Assistant United States Trade Representative for Southeast Asia, told Bernama, a comprehensive free trade agreement would be mutually beneficial for both countries as they were already trading heavily in electronic and electrical goods, machinery and parts, and agricultural products.

"In electronic goods, we provide each other components in the supply chain, and in agriculture - we complement each other," she said, and thus," the quicker the better" for both sides to reach an agreement.

Malaysian and American negotiators will meet here for five days beginning Monday, July 17, for a second round of FTA talks.

The first round was held in Penang on June 10 following the launching of the talks in Washington on March 8 of this year.

Three more rounds of talks are scheduled for the year.

There are 23 groups and committees in the delegations to negotiate a variety of key issues that include agriculture, textile, customs, technology barrier to trade, intellectual property, investments, government procurement, labour and environment.

Once the talks are concluded, the agreement would be brought before Congress in the U.S., and in Malaysia to the Parliament, for review and ratification, before it is signed into law by leaders of the two countries.

Weisel said there was a "great deal of support" from business groups in the U.S. from business groups such as the American National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which has put the U.S.-Malaysia FTA agreement on its short list of priority.

The agreement also gets the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other chamber groups.

The American National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a leading advocate for U.S. FTA with Malaysia, is calling for an agreement similar to Australia's FTA which provided 99 percent duty-free access in Australia for US exports of consumer and industrial products as soon as the agreement went into effect.

Weisel said the U.S. would like to see an agreement similar to that with Malaysia.

At this point "both sides are committed" towards reaching a mutually-beneficial agreement.

The two sides were still reviewing and consolidating the draft text of the agreement, she added.

Meanwhile, some sectors in the US are expressing reservations about the agreement.

Producers of rubber footwear, facing competition from Malaysian rubber footware, and the oleochemical producers, which produce biodiesel fuel, soap and detergent, face competition from palm oil and its products.

They are concerned that duty-free products of their competitors would flood the U.S. market and harm U.S. industries.

The U.S. Automotive Trade Policy Council (ATPC), which represents Daimler Chrsysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, has expressed skepticism for Malaysia's new National Automotive Policy.

"While some important changes have been announced, the new policy retains some of the major features of the prior system.

"It appears that the government is still committed to maintaining a national auto industry and some elements of its bumiputra policy both in the manufacturing, importing and retailing side of the business," the ATPC said in a statement.

Weisel said, it was still too early to project how far Malaysia would go to open up its automotive market and dismantle its trade barriers, "we have not reached that stage yet."

-- BERNAMA
 

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