US and Malaysia resume free trade talks

The United States and Malaysia resumed formal talks Monday for a free trade agreement, nearly a year after discussions stalled amid differences over Malaysia's government procurement policy.

The United States — Malaysia's biggest trading partner — is seeking "real, demonstrable progress" in its sixth round of free trade negotiations with the Southeast Asian country, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Kathryn Taylor.

"There is no deadline, but there is no indefinite timeline either. We need to be making progress. So that's what we'll be looking for," Taylor said. "Political calendars can affect the way trade negotiations continue."

Taylor said the U.S. wants to seal a deal by summer before a new administration takes over — a target that Washington believes is "achievable."

Formal talks, last held in February 2007, stalled when the Malaysian government said it needed more time to consider its domestic interests.

However, informal discussions aimed at ironing out differences have been held since then, leading to the latest talks in Malaysia, which are expected to end Thursday, Taylor said.

"We're at the point now where both sides are ready to come back to the formal negotiating table," she said. "They are ready to come down and formalize what they've been discussing."

Malaysian trade officials were not immediately available to comment.

No comments: