Thursday, June 15, 2006

US-Malaysia Trade Talks


Monday this week, Malaysia and the US began talks towards a new trade agreement, with hopes of concluding the agreement at the end of this year, before the expiration in mid-2007 of the Bush administration's fast-track authority for legislative approval of international deals. In particular, the US is calling for an effective response to intellectual property piracy in the region, particularly trade in unauthorised copies of DVDs and computer software.

In March, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, launched his plans for Malaysia to become the first developed Muslim nation by 2020. However, according to a report in the Financial Times, the Prime Minister is already facing strong political criticism for his economic reforms, making the passage of the US trade talks somewhat resisted. Further, it has been suggested that a US-Malaysia trade agreement would compromise Bumiputra laws, part of Malaysia's policy of affirmative action for ethnic Malays (motivated in part by the 13 May 1969 Chinese-Malay race riots).

The Second Finance Minister, Nor Mohammed Yakcop, has stated that Malaysia will insist on an agreement beneficial to the country, and will not be pressured by the deadline of 2007: "The FTA is an instrument that if it's beneficial for Malaysia, the country would use it; but if it is no longer in its interest, then Malaysia would not agree."

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