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US, Malaysia begin free-trade negotiations

The US has launched free-trade negotiations with Malaysia, in a move aimed at strengthening U.S. economic ties in the strategically important Southeast Asian region.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 15:59 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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The United States launched free-trade negotiations with Malaysia on Wednesday, in a move aimed at strengthening U.S. economic ties in the strategically important Southeast Asian region.

"Malaysia has been at the forefront of the economic dynamism transforming Asia in recent years," U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said at a conference with Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz.

"It already is our tenth largest trading partner, with $44 billion in two-way trade in 2005. Combined with a new trade-opening agreement, Malaysia's rapidly growing economy will help generate meaningful export opportunities for our workers, service providers and farmers," Portman said in Washington.

The proposed pact with the majority-Muslim country builds on an existing U.S. free-trade agreement in Southeast Asia with Singapore, and follows Washington's recent decision to negotiate a free-trade deal with South Korea.

Rafidah said she was optimistic that a deal could be reached by early next year, without the many problems that had dogged U.S. free-trade talks with Thailand two years ago.

"As far as Malaysia is concerned, there is absolutely no opposition to the FTA (free-trade agreement)," Rafidah said, adding that free trade would attract new U.S. investment.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 12:01 IST