The fourth round of talks over the Malaysia-US free trade agreement (FTA) took place in San Francisco last week. The US is adopting a pragmatic approach in its FTA negotiations with Malaysia, and it is keen to conclude the negotiations on a successful note as it was facing problems in its talks with the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Thailand , according to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER).

Dr. Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem, MIER Executive Director, said that 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.

Malaysia needs to be cautious, especially on its rights to protect certain industries or services, he added.

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

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

Malaysia is the US’s largest ASEAN trading partner and its fifth largest trading partner in Asia. (Thai News Service)