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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

United States And Malaysia Negotiate Free Trade Pact

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The United States and Malaysia plan to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA), adding it to FTA negotiations that are underway with Ecuador, South Korea, Panama, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the five nations of the African Customs Union. In all, this will bring to more than 15 the number of FTAs that are in various stages of negotiation and implementation. The negotiations with Malaysia will get underway after the expiration of a 90-day consultation with Congress.

In announcing the planned negotiations, US Trade Representative Rob Portman said this FTA would be the third the United States is negotiating with strategically important Southeast Asian nations. “Malaysia has been at the forefront of the economic dynamism transforming Asia in recent years,” he said. “It already is our 10th largest trading partner, with $44 billion in two-way trade in 2005.”

Portman added that the United States is Malaysia’s largest trading partner and the largest foreign investor in Malaysia. He said removing trade and investment barriers between the two nations will improve market access, enhance competitiveness and increase prosperity for both countries.

US textile manufacturers are unlikely to have any problems with the FTA, as Malaysia today accounts for only about 1 percent of textile and apparel imports. Nevertheless, they can be expected to seek a yarn-forward rule of origin, strict customs provisions and enforcement, and no tariff preference levels that permit use of a specified amount of apparel inputs from nonparticipating countries.

March 14, 2006